When it comes to directions, I’m completely landmark driven. Sure, you could tell me to go east on 3rd Street and make a right on Brazos, but it would be easier if you said something like “go towards the highway, stay in the right lane and then turn at the 7-11. You’ll see the restaurant right next to the large palm trees and the stack of tires.” Now those are directions I can get behind. They’re easy to remember. In fact, I’ll probably still remember those fake directions long after I post this piece (and not just because the idea of a 7-11 on Brazos and 3rd amuses me a bit, but because I can actually visualize it). When you veer away from landmarks I start getting lost in a sea of meaningless words. I know they’re your beloved streets, but they sound foreign and impossibly difficult to me. Long lists of streets and turns or the overuse of cardinal directions blows my mind and when I receive them as a wall of directional text I feel like you’re hinting that I should stay at home. If I have to spend more than 30 minutes of searching through a maze of twisty streets that some drunken planner, inspired by Salvador Dali, thought would be a whimsical little jaunt through cookie cutter house land, I reserve the right to call it good and drive back home. Thirty minutes is the absolute limit of my patience. Thirty minutes represents the point where I’ll turn and bite the heads off the innocent and unsuspecting. (A long standing joke as to why Jay and I could never participate in the Amazing Race is that there potentially would be video evidence out in the world of how shrewish I can be when faced with irritating travel issues. Jay would come across as a poor brow-beaten and long-suffering abused guy while I would become the latest in a long line of women that America loves to hate. See, can’t go on that show now! That’s the only reason. My physical prowess, my willingness to leap off of things and love of decaying camel lips in stew would not be an issue.)
Another problem I have is with Beth North. This is different from Magnetic North, True North and Grid North. Beth North states that whichever way I’m facing happens to be North. It’s funny until I’m facing south on a highway and I need to go east, and I accidentally take the west exit (thinking that’s the way I need to go) and end up on “an adventure”. Adventures that appear between quotations are usually not good for anyone in said “adventure”. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened often. There’s also House North. Once in the house (or any building really), the north is in the direction of the door. As I’m exiting the door, I am once again lined up perfectly for Beth North. Trust me, it makes sense if you’re insane.
When giving directions, at least one friend has learned to follow my hands and not bother with my words. My hands are always right. My mouth is not. I can accurately point to where I want to go. I can’t always tell you (correctly) where I want to go. Sure, I could hold up my hands and see which fingers look more like an “L”, but in the heat of the moment my vocabulary sometimes lets me down, I forget to analyze my fingers and really it’s just easier for everyone if you look at where I’m pointing.
I typically use landmarks when giving directions, but even then you need to pay attention to those identifying buildings and clumps of trees I noted and not how accurately I counted stop lights. “Go past 3 stoplights” may mean “go past 2” or it could mean “go past 4”. It will almost always be off by 1, but if I tell you, “and then you’ll see Lightsey’s Insurance, so you’ll turn left at the street past that”, then look for that building, don’t rely on my count. In fact, I don’t want to hear your guff if you counted stop lights and my count was off. The fact is, you wouldn’t be here to harass me about the directions if you hadn’t successfully found the insurance company. Plus, there’s Google Maps, Smart phones and GPS devices, so if you trusted me or you got lost for some reason it’s ultimately your fault for asking me to begin with.
The important message I want you to walk away with is, “don’t ask me for directions.” If you do, be prepared to get landmarks and don’t rely on what I say to be in any way accurate. North could be east based on where I’m standing. Where’s the grocery store? Well, turn right at Best Buy, pass Sonic and the Chevron and the store will be on your right next to Starbucks. You’ll be facing north. It’s also just east of Dell. (DISCLAIMER: Store is actually south of Dell. All directional references were used as a humor device only and in no way should be followed unless you also want to have an “adventure”. Please refer to your smart phone or your Tomtom.)