Monday, May 28, 2012

True North

I have no sense of direction.  Except for up.

I’m like a hound dog that way—I can figure out where the sky is with my eyes closed.  That oughta count for something. But it doesn’t. 

I’m not kidding when I tell you I can get lost leaving a parking lot.  It’s happened.  Twice.
The first time, it was July in Phoenix.  Bet you’re sweating already just thinking about it.  I opened my car door and stepped out of the way while 300 degrees of built up dry heat escaped. Then I loaded up that bad boy with a year’s supply of produce, ice cream and poultry, and drove around the parking lot for half an hour trying to remember which exit had been an entrance when I arrived.  By the time I figured it out, I had a trunk full of steamed spinach, chocolate chip soup and baked chicken.
Men don’t understand this at all.
See, in my mind, True North is always whatever direction I’m facing.  There’s a geometric grid in my brain with north at the top.  And, since I’m a visual person, I refer to that grid with my mind’s eye whenever I picture the way home, i.e., from my local Safeway.  I knew that Baseline Road was north, and Alma School Road was east, and the exit I just pulled out of was on the right and I had arrived from the right, so if I closed my eyes and pictured the True North grid in my mind . . .  I had no idea how to get home. 
I can’t do maps in reverse because True North is always on top, and east is always on the right. I had to turn the virtual map around in my mind then, so that Baseline Road, which runs east and west but is north of where I was shopping and south of where I lived, would suddenly become a yellow brick road and I wouldn’t wind up in Canada.  I thought I was driving north, but none of the buildings were in the right places and I didn’t know how to fix my grid.
This is really frustrating.  And scary.
When my husband and I got married, we left the logically laid-out grid work of the Phoenix freeway system and moved to his hometown on the gulf coast of Florida which had once been small and aspired to stay that way by refusing to improve its roads.  They figured that way frustrated snowbirds wouldn’t build nests. Therefore, to this day, no roads lead to Rome, most of them loop back onto each other, and if you’re not careful you’ll wind up floating down a lazy river in your little boat, the S.S.Chevy Tahoe, wondering why no one told you Siesta Key Beach is a road and a beach.
So my new sisters-in-law tried to help me out with my bearings. 
“Okay, avenues run north and south. Streets run east and west.  If you see moss growing on a tree, that’s the north side.  Usually. The gulf is always on the west and the sun rises over the trees.”  And the mockingbirds only sing while flying north and the manatees dive south into the bay and Little Boy Blue blows his horn and the sheep run away with the spoons.  At least that’s how I remember it.
After a while, we moved back to the land of freeway grids and I breathed a sigh of relief.   For a minute.  I grew up on the west side of the Valley of the Sun and now we were living on the east side.  Everything except north and south were in reverse now. Major street names were completely different. And the Gulf was no longer on my left.  So my husband tried to help me out with my bearings.
“Okay, the sun always rises in the east—that’s the side we live on.  Then it sets in the west, right over there behind South Mountain.  If you’re headed north, you’ll see the Phoenix Mountains which are in East Mesa.  If you’re driving south, to Tucson, be sure to take I-10 East or you’ll find yourself headed west to Phoenix.  But that’s the long way.  Okee dokee?  Everything make sense now?”
I just stared at him blankly.
“Baby,” I answered, “you lost me at north/south/east/west.”


  1. Seriously, if the manatees don't clue you in, you're completely hopeless. You can ride with me. We'll be lost together.

    1. Okay, but we should pick up Emi on the way. She can find her way out of anywhere but the mall, she said. I can live without a mall.

  2. John and I have occasionally joked that it's a good thing we like each other otherwise all the time we spend lost in the car together would be very unpleasant.

    1. Hahaha! Maybe getting lost together in the same car is really just a great excuse for a date. Keep it up! (But keep a Garmin in the glovebox.)