I’m directionally impaired.
Have been since grade school when I learned that north is at the top of the compass and south is at the bottom. Naturally I thought that meant north was always in front of me and south was behind me. I made it happily through my childhood years without any major traumas due to my directional deficiency, but this handicap became a problem when I got my driver’s license in high school in Phoenix a few lifetimes ago.
Phoenix, being the “valley of the (scorching) sun,” has some gorgeous natural landmarks surrounding it. Problem is one mountain looks pretty much like another. So when someone would say, “Go toward South Mountain, then head east on such-and-such street,” I was clueless. South Mountain, North Mountain, what’s the difference? My only saving grace was when my destination was somewhere in the vicinity of Camelback Mountain. Appropriately named, that was a mountain even I could identify.
After high school I spent five years in Europe, courtesy of Uncle Sam, and never got lost; much to my family’s amazement. That’s because in Germany, I usually traveled by train or bus, plus most of the towns and villages near our American Air Force Base were so small even I could find my way around them. And in London they have this great color-coded underground subway system called the tube.
Piece of cake. Cup of tea.
It was when I returned stateside that the trouble began. While I was overseas, my family had moved from Phoenix to Sacramento, where the myriad of freeways in California’s capital city boggled my mind. They all sounded so similar: Interstate 80, Business 80, and “the old 880.” To further confuse unsuspecting travelers, the old 880 is now I-80 and the old I-80 is now Business 80. Got that? I don’t.
Even my then-eight-year-old nephew Joshua knew his way around better than I did. One day he was in the car with me when I was trying to figure the way to a friend’s house in a part of town I didn’t know very well. This time, I knew the general direction I needed to go, but was bewildered by the variety of freeway options to get me there.
Josh suggested one, but I disregarded him. After all, he was only eight. But as the lights of Sacramento receded in the distance, he piped up from the back seat, “Aunt Laura, we’re on our way to San Francisco.”
(Excerpted and adapted from my first book, Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde.)
How about you? Are you directionally impaired? Or is it just me?