I get lost easily

7 11 2010

In less than one month’s time I’ll be starting a work experience binge. I’m very excited about the forthcoming binge because I’ll be working alongside some of the best writers – and indeed drivers – that the UK motoring press has to offer. But my parents are a bit concerned.

My destinations are, first, Northamptonshire and then Cambridgeshire. The towns, the magazines, even the counties are irrelevant. What is relevant though is that I’ll be borrowing my mum’s car, which means I’ll be driving myself to the destinations.

I’ve borrowed my mum’s 1.2 Clio plenty of times before. So far, touch wood, I’ve had a good history with it. So the car-borrowing isn’t the issue.

When I asked my dad if I could borrow the car, for a journey that would head further south than Preston, the conversation went like this:

“Dad, please can I borrow the car?”

“Yes, but Pete, you haven’t had much experience with longer distances on your own. You’ve got to read signs quickly and make fast decisions.”

“I’ll be fine!”

“You get lost easily though, Pete.”

“[Pause] Yeah I do.”

This is entirely fair, and based on my past with following directions.

Examples of me getting lost

Example 1

One evening in late August 2008 I went to do an interview for my Sir William Lyons Award entry. I was going to head to a farm in the middle of nowhere to do an interview with my mum’s cousin.

On the day I was due to do the interview, my parents asked if I knew where he lived. I didn’t. So they told me the directions. One element of the directions was crucial: “You know how to get to mum’s school don’t you?” “Er yeah! Of course I do!” (From this reference point, the rest of the journey would be a doddle.) I’ve been to my mum’s school many times. It’s a very simple route, and less than four and a half miles.

That evening, I set off, went down the road I knew would lead me to my mum’s school, and drove quite contentedly until I realised that I was lost. I stopped, phoned home, told them I was at a junction on a corner that I’d never seen before, and was told where to go again.

Example 2

Unfortunately, my second example is more recent. At work in the summer, I had to drive to a place near Blackpool to meet a colleague to sort out some equipment for an event.

The day before, he wrote down detailed directions. I could see the route in my mind (it was a similar route to the one we – my family – used to take when visiting my late grandad), so I wasn’t going to get lost!

I agreed to meet my colleague at 9:30am. I set off in good time, and arrived in Blackpool for 9:15am – I was early! However, I was early somewhere else. I was in the right area, but I didn’t have a clue where I or my colleague was. I tried to ask a pedestrian for directions, but he ignored me, so I sped off and phoned home for directions.

My issue with directions is that I sometimes over-analyse them. If a signpost has a different destination to that mentioned in the directions, I think to myself: “I must be at the wrong roundabout, I’ll keep going.” Rather than: “This is probably the right way to go.” Or I’ll panic, and take a turn early because I worry that THIS could be the one I’m supposed to take.

Example 3

Surprisingly, I do actually have a memory, and, sometimes, even a sense of direction. When my memory and sense of direction are present, my third example demonstrates I should listen to them/myself.

Sadly, my third example was less than two months ago. Again, it was work-related. I had to take some food to a leisure village (I don’t know what else to call it, because that’s what it’s known as) because a journalist was visiting that weekend. I looked at the directions on the place’s website, and it fitted in with what my memory was telling me.

Just to be sure, I checked Google Maps.

Seven miles after leaving the motorway, I learnt that Google was wrong. A quick phone call to my parents got me back on the right route (I’d promised them that morning that I knew where I was going… and I did, but Google tricked me).

As a side note, the road I happened to go the wrong way down was a brilliant road. In fact, I was very happy that I’d gone the wrong way. It was the ideal hilly road, with fast and medium speed corners with enough visibility to keep up a good pace.

Conclusion

If I give you directions, they’ll probably be accurate, so you can trust them (note: this does not apply to walking directions for shops, even in Lancaster, which has been my nearest city since I was born).

If you’re in the car with me, I’ll go the right way. When others are in the car with me, my desire to remain dignified (ie. Not asking for directions) ensures I use common sense and stay calm.

BUT

If you give me directions, I will probably go the wrong way anyway.

If I say: “Yeah I know where that is” I probably do, but I’ll doubt myself when I get to a crucial junction and turn the wrong way. It’s best to tell me how to get to even the most obvious places.

If you set a rendezvous time, no matter how long in advance I set off, I WILL go the wrong way. Expect me to arrive anywhere up to 45 minutes late, even if the journey was only supposed to take five.

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