Monday, December 14, 2009

How good is your sense of direction?

I already mentioned the story I'm about to share on my Facebook fan page (which, ahem, you would know if you are in fact a fan), and FnF reader, Elizabeth, suggested I blog about it, too. I'm sure this won't come as a surprise, but I am absolutely horrible with directions. Horrible. Yesterday after work, I heard a man, obviously a tourist, tell his two little boys, "I hope we're walking north because I want to take you to this famous deli, called Katz's!" Oh no, oh no, I thought, they are going south! Faaar south. Occasionally when I overhear a conversation and know someone is heading in the wrong direction, I will offer my unsolicited help. For whatever reason though, I didn't last night, and I felt totally guilty about it afterwards. It was freezing outside, and the dad and his two sons were at least a 15-minute walk from where they needed to be. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.

It is a sin not to help someone with directions in this crazy city, especially when it's cold out. Lord knows I had to ask a million people for directions when I first moved to to New York. Hell, I still do on occasion when I'm in a 'hood I don't frequent often. But I guess that's the difference. I ASK people for help, and even though I've lived here for over five years, I'm not embarrassed about it. (Well, except when I'm entertaining out-of-town guests). There is no way that man asked anyone for help--he was just too far away from his destination. Eh, men.

It's a wonder I can navigate my way around Manhattan. It took me forever to be confident on the subway--just look at that map! One time I got really lost driving my boyfriend home from the airport. Umm, we were in Lexington, KY--the city I lived in for 18 years! I was incredibly embarrassed, especially because we hadn't been dating that long. I had hoped he wouldn't discover my ditzy side until much, much later. Oops.

Surprisingly though, I drove to four different cities in Pennsylvania for a John Gosselin story when I was working as a tabloid reporter, and managed to do OK. I didn't have a GPS or a Blackberry, so I had to find random Kinko's stores and print out the maps. Of course I got lost a few times, but I was pretty impressed with myself. Hmm, maybe I need to pretend my life job is on the line every time I need to go somewhere. Despite my lack of sleep on that fun little excursion (can you hear my sarcasm?), I suppose I was more alert than normal, which is something I should practice more often.

What about you guys: How is your sense of direction? Have you ever been lost in New York?! It's the worst!


  1. God Bless the grid system here in Austin. It's easy peasy! Thankfully I have a great sense of direction but can't read a map for shit:)

  2. Love maps. Love directions. Love giving directions. I have a pretty good sense of direction, which comes in handy in Atlanta where there are five roads named Peachtree.

    New York is great because you can figure out if you are going north or south because of the street numbers (um...did that dad not know that?) If I am going somewhere new, I always look up the directions and look at the map beforehand. This includes walking somewhere. You don't want to be that person standing at a corner with a map, waiting for your pocket to get picked.


  3. Haha, Barbara, you're funny!

    Yes, Shannon, I was totally confused about all the different Peachtree streets the last time I was in ATL. And actually, if you go south enough, the street numbers turn into street NAMES and it can be very confusing. The dad was in that area. I give him props for venturing out of Times Square though--a lot of tourists don't and it drives me nuts!!

  4. i am HORRIBLE with directions! my dad loves to tell the story of how i got my driver's license when i was 16-my second semester of junior year. the first day i was going to drive myself to school, i asked my dad ow to get there. as if i hadn't been going there every day for the past 2.5 years.

    (sidenote: i have absolutely no memory of this and even if it's true, i was forced to take the bus, and that wasn't a direct route)

  5. I am not that great at directions, not AWFUL, but not great. I did find NYC pretty easy to get around when I visited, it's nice how organized the streets are. Here in New Orleans it's like the opposite of a grid system. We don't usually say use "north" and "south" we say it's towards the river or towards the lake. The city curves around the river so it makes everything confusing. What everyone refers to as the "West Bank" of the Mississippi River is actually East of the city, and there are so many one ways and no left turns, etc. I'm used to it, but I know it confuses tourists!

  6. jkw-that sounds super confusing for a non-native! chicago is sort of the same. people will give directions like "west of the river"...i mean where is the river?! just point me somewhere please!!

    i think it's funny that manhattan is actually almost sideways, yet on maps of the city, they have turned it so up is north, down is south, etc. i think it says a lot about the nyc mind-set :)

  7. The subway in Paris is easy so it's ok, but i'm also really bad with direction. I always need a map to find a street, and it takes me some time to even figure out the map!
    In Paris, i never can say in wich part of the city i am (in wich arrondissement actually but i don't know how to translate it!)
    And i can't take my car to go somewhere i don't know if i don't have a gps!