Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Where's Here?

We were frustrated. We'd gone to an exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the elevator that went right to where the show was held was down for repairs. We were sent into the museum to find another elevator. We asked a guard who was nearly hostile saying as if we were incredibly stupid, 'I can't tell you where the elevator is until you tell me what floor you want.' I wondered if this was in an employee rulebook or something but I simply said, 'We're going to the second floor.' She pointed to the elevator which was just a few feet down the hallway she seemed to be guarding.

We got up to the second floor and there wasn't a sole around to give us directions, no signage was in place, we felt completely lost. After wandering around for a few minutes without orienting ourselves or finding anything in the way of directions when we started asking other guests of the museum. None knew where we should go. Finally Joe remembered that we were given a map to the building and pulled it out. This is funny in and of itself as Joe can't orient himself in our apartment after dark. But I, as a dutiful spouse, kept my mouth shut.

Joe studied the map for a few minutes and said, 'Where is 'you are here'?' Tessa and I looked at him in incredulity. Joe said, 'What?' I said, 'How can they know where you are when you look at the map? They can't put 'you are here' when they don't know where 'here' is.' Suddenly Joe got it and it struck him funny. He collapsed against the wall laughing. Tessa and I joined in and we howled for several minutes. We were a bit raucous for the crowd there but we couldn't stop.

This moment got us by the whole visit. When we finally found the exhibit, I spoke to the woman standing beside the sign letting us know that we'd arrived where we want to be. I suggested they put up a sign by the elevator indicating where the exhibit was, after all, it was the major exhibit. She said, 'But it's just off the elevator.' I said, 'The elevator is under repair.' She said, 'Oh.' I said, 'You need to put up signs or have someone give directions to people who have to use the elevator.' She said, 'We do have signs.' I said, 'Where?' She pointed to the sign beside her. I gave up.

All the way through the show I had a choice, to remember her dismissal of my suggestion or to remember Joe collapsed against the wall under an imaginary sign, 'You are here'. I chose the latter. It was a good choice.


The Untoward Lady said...

It would seem that their common sense, too, was out of order, eh?

Kristin said...

It continually amazes me how oblivious people (like the museum people) can be. Glad y'all were able to find some humor in the whole situation.

Eunice said...

This made me smile and I can certainly identify with Joe because my own sense of direction is appalling. But still I don't think it is all my fault. It seems to me that signs in Italy and the Italian sense of logic in placing them are among the worst in the world. I have lived in Italy for 25 years now and I still shake in my boots if I have to drive somewhere I have not been before at least five times. The only foolproof way of getting there is to ask someone on the street, and then (usually) ask again, and again and again!!
A visitor from out of town who came to see our photo exhibition on disability and diversity in Rescaldina made us smile with the following comment. She said: "Do I have a disability if I am unable to follow directions on the highway?" :) Well, I don't know about that, but it does seem like a major impediment all the same.

Moose said...

There wasn't a sole around? That sounds fishy!


Amber said...

I agree with Moose, not proofing your work is simply disrespectful. Almost every post I read has at least one gramatical error. It takes away from your point. I don't understand why bloggers like you are so popular. If you want to write well, write properly.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

What Joe said sounds just like something I'd say. (I was born without a sense of direction, and all I know is that if I think I should proceed left, I should definitely go right.) It's important to have a sense of humor about this stuff, and I'm really glad the laughter carried you through the less-than-satisfying exchange about the elevator. God created humor for a reason. Sometimes, it really saves the day. :-)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Amber, you must be a new reader. When I started the blog many years ago I pointed out that this was a 'blog'. I write for it every day and often squeeze in time for it. I noted then that the posts were 'raw' in that they weren't polished or editted. I try to be careful with my writing but do mess up. I, like you, am surprised at this blogs popularity. I never for a moment imagined that it would find the audience it has. I am just pleased that most of my readers, probably from living a life with other and greater frustrations, have learned both patience and kindness

Anonymous said...

Oh goodness gracious, Amber. Commenting on someone not proofing their work is simply disrespectful. Some of the best stuff I've read comes from people who never proof their work. Dave shares with us and we're fortunate that his experiences and perceptions enrich our lives. You are entitled to your opinion, but I'd like to ask that you judge a little less and listen to Dave's message a little more. Hope you'll continue to read along with us here. There is much to learn and consider!

Laurel said...

Goodness gracious, Amber. If just a typo offends you, seeing what rest of the great wide internets can offer is going to lay you out flat with discombobulation.

Belinda said...

Ha ha, I would have been rolling on the floor in laughter at the "You are here," moment. That is soooo funny. I would have been tempted to say that the map automatically and helpfully orients itself to where you are.:)

Andrea S. said...


Oh, yes, I, too, often find my way places by asking people in the street for help, then another and another!

See, when someone gives me a set of directions, even assuming that I can lipread them, or assuming that they actually write it down (!), I can rarely understand the full set of directions because most people's directions make no sense to me ... I just can't connect people's worded description of directions, nor images on most maps, to the actual physical act of navigating my environment. So usually I only pay attention to the first part of each person's directions, which is usually something among the lines of, "Go this way, then ..." I just ignore the "then" part, go in the direction they point, then ask someone else and see where they point next!

When I was younger (maybe late teens to early 20s), my mother literally had to write directions on how to make a left turn, something like this:

"come up the metro escalator. The escalator is now to your back. Turn 90 degrees to your left. The escalator should now be at your left hand side. Now walk forward. You have made a left turn ..." Then when I was following the directions I'd actually hold up my left hand -- ok, I'm making a left turn, so this means I need to turn in the direction of my left hand ... in making the left turn the escalator should then end up on my left hand side ... yes, there it is ... now I can walk forward, escalator still on my left hand side ..."!

I no longer need directions written out at quite this level of detail, but only because at some point along the way I memorized the sequence and slowly, over the course of years and years, started to internalize it. But I did still need to learn it by rote in a way that most people don't seem to need!

I, like Joe, wish that every map would have a "You are here" dot on it. If we were living in Dr. Who's universe, then surely we could do this with some modification of the basic principles of how psychic paper works ... (Sorry, my inner geek is showing!)