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February 26, 2024

How To Misread a Map

By Terry Petersen

(without really trying)

I have often said, "Turn me around twice, and I can't tell which way is up." Hyperbole? Yes. Although the statement contains an over-sized nugget of truth. Some people understand only left and right, and others intuit north and south as if a compass had been built into their bloodstreams, as much a part of their existence as breathing and full-bladder awareness.

Yes, I consistently put my shoes on the proper feet. Getting from one side of town to the other is another matter.

My husband once mapped out a route to an unfamiliar area of town. He asked me to repeat the instructions. I got lost on paper several times before I got it. For some reason, he wanted me to call when I arrived.

I wasn't surprised by his concern. I scare me. Frequently. Somehow, I made it to my destination -- because miracles happen. And because I must have as many guardian angels as there are Super Bowl fans.

A line on the map, squiggly or straight, does not represent what exists on a designated part of any road: canopied oak trees and rolling hills, a new subdivision, mini-malls, or intersections from what my mother would call h-e-double-toothpicks. While driving, however, my language may become more colorful.

Maps don't show construction zones and detours, the accident cutting off the left lane at my next turn. Then, I need to find a place to turn around while my heart beats double-time, syncopated to the rhythm of the pulsating rap in the car next to me.

At night, a driving rain makes reading street signs a guessing game. Oncoming headlights against the black blind me, like the aura before a migraine.

Eventually. Sometimes. The route becomes familiar. If traveled often enough. Only during the day. As I drive I imagine my next blog or story. I see nuances in sky, cloudbursts, the lucky squirrel that made it across the road.

Ordinary scenes open larger perspectives. People of all ages, color, and sizes walk the sidewalks. Stoplights remind me to pause, breathe, see more than my own agenda, yield the right of way to someone else. I add gratitude and send positive vibes, sometimes called prayer, toward the folk who need hope or healing. And, the fact that I don't have directional gifts becomes less important -- at least until the next time I need to rely on someone for help.

Perhaps others understand what it is like to feel as free-floating as an untethered helium balloon in unknown places; many may not. The differences among individuals make us who we are.

Sure, I'll bring a homemade dessert -- made from scratch -- to a party in another county. The cake or pie may include some creative and delicious flourishes. However, please, please, someone else will need to drive. I don't have idea-one how to get there. This bogus map provides an excellent example proving my point. Please do not take it seriously. Thank you.

Article © Terry Petersen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2017-02-27
Image(s) © Terry Petersen. All rights reserved.
4 Reader Comments
09:44:36 PM
Ah, yes. Thank heavens for those who are willing to chauffeur.
Anne Becker
10:29:06 PM
A fun, clever piece of writing about a subject that hits close to home! I love your two illustrations as well!
11:39:35 PM
Your story is so familiar to me. Have been there too many times to count. I enjoyed it so much I just had to read it to my husband. Thank you for adding humor to our day.
01:01:46 PM
Thanks for your comments. I'm glad to know I'm not alone. Happy seeking and traveling to all--wherever we land.
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