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Wayfinding Stories

Your Wayfinding Stories
Our readers have sent in some great stories about their adventures in the land of the directionally challenged and other true wayfinding tales. Please add your own!




Here’s what happens to me: I’m out to dinner and get up to go to the restroom and I can’t remember where my table was in the restaurant. I can’t find my husband!

I was driving back from college – I went to college in Chicago and we were driving to New York – and I was with several friends. It was a straight shot, they said. So, that’s not a problem. I certainly know how to drive. But I warned them, “Don’t go to sleep while I’m driving!” But they all fell asleep and when they woke up, we were in West Virginia!

I’ve adjusted and learned to cope by using landmarks.

I could walk into the grocery store where I’ve been going for years and walk out and not be able to find my car. My son is the only one who would always know where the car was, even when he was a little boy. My daughter never did. My husband never did.

After several years of driving back and forth to Alaska, finally we bought a GPS and it’s helped, but it’s not perfect. If you don’t know where to go, they’re OK. If you do know where to go, they always send you some weird way. We were up in North Dakota and it sent us on a wild goose chase for ten miles and then the screen went blank. I think you should use a map along with the GPS.

I’m totally frustrated by the absence of signs at the airport. There used to be little signs that hung down and said “American” “United”, etc. And there aren’t any of those anymore. And when I asked about it, they said,“We’re in the process of redesigning.” Well that was three years ago and there are still no signs there. We were picking up our friend who was coming in on an international flight and we had to circle the airport three times, because we couldn’t tell where Delta was.

I used to work on a surgical floor of a hospital and it was months before I knew what the term “PACU” meant.

When we were driving in New Brunswick, there was so much information on the signs that we couldn’t read them all (pick out the information we wanted) and it was very confusing.

Our local movie complex has two entrances (front and back) that are identical. You walk in the front or the back and they look exactly the same! Both have parking behind them too. So it’s hard to remember which entrance you used when you came in (because there are no unique landmarks) and even harder to retrace your steps when you’re leaving. After two hours in the dark you’re a little turned around anyway. I’ve found myself searching for my car when, in fact, it was on the other side of the building!

I think it’s (GPS) very confusing. The one time we used it in France, it got us lost. I think you need to know how to read a map.

I was in Los Angeles a few years ago and got very lost. I asked directions and it turned out the person I asked gave me wrong information! It seemed like he didn’t know, and was just trying to be nice (in giving me directions), but it wasn’t nice to send me the wrong way!

I had a terrible time knowing right from left when I was in grammar school, and then I broke my left leg. And after that, I knew that the broken leg was the left one. And then I could remember from then on.

One time I couldn’t find my car in the parking lot and I thought it had been stolen!

My husband grew up in South Dakota, which is flat. He had to know North, South, East and West because there are very few landmarks there. I grew up in Juneau, Alaska, where there was only one road. And if you say, I’m going from town, you’re going north. Actually, you’re going northwest, but we never called it that, it was always “north.” And so when my husband and I met and married, we had some navigation problems. And one of the first things his father asked me when we were in the car, was, “Do you know what direction you’re going?”Not wanting to appear dumb, I hemmed and hawed a bit, but said, “I guess with the sun where it is, we must be going north.” He didn’t say anything, so I guess I passed that test. . .

The GPS asks you what kind of way you want to go – the fastest route, the easiest route, but they don’t know if there’s construction or something else going on. And then it will say it’s recalculating, “Turn left immediately” and you’re on a divided highway!

I have trouble with north, south, east and west, and my husband has trouble with right and left. So when we travel together, we do a lot of pointing.

This was my greatest challenge and my greatest triumph. . . I was teaching literature on a study tour in Russia and I had learned the characters of the Russian alphabet so I could begin to understand what signs said. About 30 of the students met in a mall and there were three faculty and we were supposed to meet at one end in 20 minutes and then we were going to take the Underground to a museum. Well, everyone knows I can’t find my way at all, so about six of the students and I were waiting at the wrong end of the mall and we realized that we had missed the group. I had a map, but it was in Russian. I did my best and we walked to the museum. It took about 25 minutes and when we got there, there was no one around. And the students were really proud of me. And I said, “I’ll pay for your tickets, because it’s my fault that you’re late.” And just as I was getting out my money, in walked the other group! The great direction-finder had gotten on the wrong subway!

One thing I do that’s really helpful is to draw my own map on a 3 x 5 card, just showing the roads I need. And every time I have to change roads, I’ll change colors. And boy, does that help, because you can just glance at the dashboard and see what you need to do.