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He went thataway
All the time I’m being flagged down while I’m on my bike and asked for directions.
At first, I thought it was because the confused motorists realized that, since I was on a bike and didn’t exactly look like a Ride Across America tourist, I must be local and, thus, a good candidate to ask for help.
Plus, nobody — NOBODY — can look intimidating on a bike.
Eventually, it dawned on me, too, that all it takes is a word or two or subtle gesture to flag down a cyclist. Call a guy on a bike over with a simple chin wave, and the message is a quiet, “Pardon me, old chap, but I seem to be in a bit of a spot. Do you suppose you could direct me to the nearest pub?”
But stand in the middle of a thoroughfare to wave down a passing motorist, and you might as well scream, “HELP! A CRAZED HITCHHIKER CUT MY HUSBAND INTO TINY, BITE-SIZED PIECES, BOLTED A FEW AND IS COMING AFTER ME! CALL THE POLICE! HELP US!”
If only they knew (the poor folks asking me for directions, I mean, not hubby-turned-snack meat. He’s on his own).
See, I don’t give directions like normal people.
Normal people say things like, “Go a half mile east to Mass., then take a right. Go a couple of blocks to Ninth, then left. Three blocks down, big, yellow house on the left.”
For the life of me, I can’t remember street names.
I know all about the street-naming conventions in town and can ballpark it by geography. I know roughly where the New England streets are, and I’m pretty familiar with the streets of Big Ten country. Once I’m west of Iowa, though, forget it.
I’ve lived in this town for more than 20 years, and I still confuse Tennessee and Kentucky (OK, so that’s not a huge stretch). But I also confuse Sixth and 23rd. Not really. I mean, I know which one’s which, but I’ve been known to send people down the wrong one by misspeaking directions. And in my defense, both are awful, traffic-snarled major east-west arteries I’d rather lick than ride on.
And don’t get me started on Lawrence Ave. and Kasold and Monterey Way and Wakarusa.
I’ve lived in my current house close to 12 years, and I still have to grab a phone book or fire up Google Maps to recall that east-west connector that’s two blocks from my home. Sharon? Stetson? Saddlehorn?
I guess I’m directionally dyslexic.
So when I’m doling out my (mostly worthless) directional advice, I tend to disregard things like cardinal points and distances and, most of all, street names, which I no doubt would get wrong anyway.
Instead, I rely on landmarks — “Go straight, through four stop signs, until you come to a house that looks like the Amityville Horror” — and oddities — “If you come to a house that has a big, plastic steer out front, you’ve gone too far” — and terrain — “There’s a huge field of potholes about two blocks down. Get through that, then hang your first right” — and topography — “You’ll come to a hill that’s about a 4 percent grade for a half mile. Reach the top and you’re home free.”
There might be some left-brain-right-brain thing going on here, but, in my case, I think it’s just proof I’m half-brained.
Regardless, I try to help.
I smile, point, rattle off a stream of meaningful (only to me) gobbledygook, see the poor recipient try to follow, watch as their eyes go eerily vacant, utter a heart-felt “Good luck,” then ride off into the sunset.
And the poor victim, no doubt, ends up more lost than when he or she flagged me down in the first place.
At least I didn't cut anybody into bite-sized pieces.