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Proud to not ask for directions

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caesar novus


I got lost in Amsterdam recently, and stumbled around for hours too proud to ask for directions. I consider that good and right behavior, although it has been ridiculed as a typical male weakness. I say "has been" because maybe the issue has become mute with so many people walking with phones displaying map locations or driving with gps stuck to their windshield (doesn't this obscure vision and kill people?).


I think finding your way on your own is a fundamental issue of your relation to the universe. If you can't do it, you must try harder to master it's principles rather than get yourself off the hook with a plea for help. Some people like to ask directions because they are needy for social interactions, and it's sort of a mutual backscratching. Fine, but do that for some issue other than navigation which needs to be mastered.


So what benefit came from my masochistic stumbling? First note that I criss-crossed all of Amsterdam like a genius for several afternoon hours. I had a tiny cartoon map with several areas I wanted to photograph and surprised myself with the ease of finding them by just blazing a compass course based on the low sun position. After it went dark I got disoriented by the way everything is in a uniform curve like Manhattan bent in a semicircle. I took hours to find my hotel even when I knew I had gotten close.


Well, I think the lesson is I got lazy with normal reliance on sun position (ignored the moon) or else high landmarks (ignored differences in church steeple gingerbread). I got mesmerized by the uniformity of the canals, but didn't notice there was one bigger canal with a lack of bridges that kept turning me back, but should have served as a landmark. So I lost sleep, but a lesson was learned to be more flexible for clues (or to carry a map detailed enough for the lengthy Dutch street names).


Some might say visual navigation isn't dependable due to clouds or fog, but normally under those conditions there usually is a breeze in a consistent direction vs the random gusts kicked up by local heating. I once carried a compass to explore the backstreets of Cairo, but that wasn't needed due to their sun and landmarks. All you normally need to do is to fix in your mind a map of prominent landmarks before heading out. I never navigate in the sense of a word problem - "second left then right" type of thing just means you are totally lost when you miss or can't take one turn.


Anyway, that is my wisdom - or silliness - for the reluctance to ask directions. Actually I did ask a very rare directional question on a previous brief stopover in Amsterdam. A young women was tagging along who was on our tour group into Africa, and exuded delicate sensibilities that I thought might be offended by us blundering into the red light district. Later I found that protectiveness was very misplaced, as she loved to go alone into African bars where glass was being smashed and no other tourists dare tread. Wouldn't it be funny if someone piped up to say "I was that women"... I await an internet reunion.

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