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Directionally challenged

I discovered this function on my new Android phone last night. Well, okay, my 14 year old nephew showed it to me:

You push a button and say, "Navigate to 1234 Southwest 5th Avenue."

And it tells you how to get there.

I know, I know: people who've had iPhones for years, or who have GPS in their car, are no longer impressed by this. And people who actually have a sense of direction could never, ever be as thrilled about it as I am.

But I have no sense of direction. It's a borderline handicap, a slight but very real disability, that carries all kinds of baggage: it's funny to people, it's goofy, it's "feminine," it's an allowable form of "stupidity" for an otherwise very bright, creative person. It's also annoying and incomprehensible to people who don't suffer from it. They think I'm just not trying. "Come on!" they'll say. "Just picture the route in your head!"

There's no picture there. On a good day, if I know that that's west over there (because the sun is setting or I can see the West Hills, or the Pacific Ocean or something obvious), then I can painstakingly work out that to the right of west is north, and to the right of that is east, and to the right of that is south, using the "Never Eat Shredded Wheat" trick. But I can't feel it, and even if I can see it, I'm unsure.

As a prosthetic aid, I have whole catalogs of street names and their sequence memorized from long residence in my hometown. Jefferson Street is south of Madison Street, so if I set out from Madison and come to Jefferson, I can deduce that I'm heading south. If I come to Salmon, on the other hand, I know I've gone north. I cannot sense directions. When I'm moving, I'm just heading forward. When I turn left, I'm still heading forward. That's all I've got.

I've burned a lot of calories and a lot of gasoline over the years correcting for this handicap.

So when I got in my car this morning and said to my phone, "Navigate to [XYZ Address in unfamiliar neighborhood]" and my phone talked to me, right in my ear, and said, "Head west on NE Beech Street and turn right on NE 11th Avenue," and kept telling me exactly when and where to turn--well, I'm not exaggerating when I say I felt like I'd been let out of a prison.

And when I got to where I was going and there was a Google Street View of the destination house right there on my phone screen looking exactly like reality, I wish I could describe the sense of safety and security it gave me.

When I think that I ever, ever ventured out without this tool, I am amazed at myself.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. | Comment at Dreamwidth.

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