I freely admit that I have no sense of direction. None. My ability to get lost is the subject of epic poems. In a former life, I was an Israelite wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, or a member of Odysseus’ crew. Whatever primal part of the human brain most people have that responds to the tug of Earth’s magnetic fields just doesn’t exist in my world.
Unless I’m looking out a window, I don’t know where the streets are around the building I’m in. If I step into an elevator, I forget which side of the building my office is on. If I’m outside, the only way I know what direction I’m facing unless I see a familiar landmark (so I’m completely fucked when I’m someplace new). It’s more than just an inability to find north and south, it’s that if I’m driiving around a city, and I make a few turns, I have no idea which direction I’m facing relative to the direction I was originally headed in. It’s not something I can just “get over,” either, any more than a dyslexic can just “get over” their tendency to mix up letters. So short of extensive occupational therapy or a GPS jacked into my skull, coping is pretty much the name of the game at this point. How do you cope with an utter inability to navigate-by-feel? You watch for signage and follow it religiously.
Which is why this town never fails to thwart me. You get blocked out of your merge to 395 South, and there’s no good way to get off and get back on from 395 North. You get off 395 North and see a sign on your left, pointing left, that says “NORTH 395.” You look to your right and see a semi-obscured sign that just says, “…TH 395″ pointing to the right, so you follow that, thinking that since it’s pointing the other way, it must take you south… and it’s ALSO a sign for 395 North.
How the HELL did we end up in a situation in which two signs, at the same intersection, pointing in opposite directions, send you back to the same highway in the same direction? Don’t ask me to tell you where this is, either, because as you might have guessed by now, I have no freaking clue where I was when I saw this. I just know that because I missed a merge onto 395 south on 15th St NW, I somehow managed to cross the Frederick Douglass Bridge before figuring out how to get home.
And how did I get home? I saw the sign for the Suitland Parkway, realized I was definitely headed in the wrong direction, and turned around. When I turned around, I saw the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and signs pointing toward Downtown.
If it weren’t for that dome, I’d be fucked over on a regular basis trying to get around this town.
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs