many may consider a route that doesn’t follow ‘as the crow flies’ or as the map/gps/passenger ‘suggests’, to be inefficient or in other words – not the best way to go. in my experience however, it is on those unknown avenues, that i find myself inevitably traveling most often, and on these journeys, i always end up where i planned to go, though i discover many places along the way that i never would have experienced otherwise.
i first noticed it when i was very young, and went riding my bike out of the garage, all smiles and with sparkly streamers flying from the handlebars, excited for what the day held, venturing into the safe confines of my own neighborhood. once out on the street though, it was often a struggle to find my way around, and in and out of places.
frequency and familiarity made absolutely no difference – somehow between the time i left and the time i returned – the paths, the roads, the routes, all seemed to converge and made me wonder how i would arrive at my destination, and upon eventually getting there, wondering how i would ever get back.
over time, i learned to adapt and just worked things out, though i was reminded of this challenge as i grew up, began driving a car, and had places where i was actually expected to be at a particular time.
as a parent, and as my daughters became more aware of their surroundings, i heard comments from the backseat such as: ‘are you doing this on purpose mom?!’, ‘this is not where your company picnic is supposed to be, it looks like we’re going to the place where we went canoeing yesterday!,’ ‘haven’t you lived here forever?’, ‘is it legal to turn around here?’, and ‘are you trying to be funny?’
over time, family and friends got used to u-turns at the emergency turn-arounds on the freeway, circling around a city, (even our own), calls and stops asking strangers how to get from one place to another, and of course, finding our way to places via other places we never even knew existed.
they adapted as well, and knew when they got the call, ‘which way am i supposed to go?’ from me, not to ask which direction i was heading, but rather, ‘what do you see?’ landmarks make much more sense than cardinal directions do in my book, and it’s not as common after all, to be sitting at a light next to a giant paul bunyan statue, as it is to be ‘heading north on main street.’
as an adult, i’ve only encountered two other people who have these same challenges – one of my sisters and one of my close friends. when trying to visit each other or even go places together, we often end up somewhere else first, and are understanding of the idea of having chosen the ‘more interesting route.’
for some unexplained reason, when traveling far distances, such as australia, i seem to be able to navigate my way there. once i was lost walking around hong kong, with broken glasses and no command of the language. word soon spread like wildfire in the family, with texts going out – ‘mom is lost and blind in hong kong, hopefully she can find her way out’, (think mr. magoo), and i eventually did somehow. ironically, one of my first jobs was as a travel agent…
recently, i began to look into this phenomenon and stumbled upon a reason, a scientific explanation for all of this – dyscalculia. just five syllables to sum up what i’ve always wondered about. amazing there’s an actual term for this – think of it as ‘directional dyslexia’. it has to do with mental mapping abilities, directionality, mechanical steps, and conversion of 2d images to 3d. wow – had i known this a long time ago, i would have had a comeback when i was questioned by my daughters!
the plus side of this, is that people who have this are generally, ‘highly intelligent and developed in other areas.’ okay, i’ll take it. on this research site, there were many who wrote to say, ‘i can’t believe i have found others like this!’, and ‘i feel redeemed at last!’, and ‘now i know when i come out of the restroom at the airport why i am lost in the terminal!’ one woman even had the ironic twist of fate of marrying a cartographer. it was an endless word-fest of ‘lost’ people celebrating the finding of others like them.
like them, i have found my people at last! i think it would be wonderful to get together and meet to discuss this in person, however, i don’t know how long it would take us all to find each other. until then, i’ll just try to make sure i don’t have my shirt on inside-out and i’ll keep my eyes open for the giant salmon, where i know i should turn to head towards the cottage.