Sunday, July 11, 2010

Do You Speak Map?...humor with a direction...or lack thereof

Do You Speak Map?

The lost art of cartography may be responsible for the fact that an entire quadrant of the population seems to be literally lost. I’m convinced that there must be a whole fleet of pilots flying for ‘Anytime Airlines’ relying upon the minimal skills provided in their babyboomer-era education which turns them into Christopher Columbus in the air as they discover new worlds. “What do you mean I’m in Israel instead of Japan? Hang on. Where‘s that thing? Yeah. You know. That…map. Nope. This doesn’t look like any country I’ve ever seen.”

And now I have a confession to make. I am one of the map illiterates. We are the kids who were schooled some time in the 1960’s, 1970’s, late-1400’s who did not have to painstakingly label and memorize a map for every blessed province, country and area code in the world. At the time we thought it was a good thing that geography was all but abolished due to the ever-changing philosophies of public school system powers-that-be, but then that whole “world market, global citizen” thing stuck and, lo and behold, the powers that be were powers that be wrong. As it turns out, we use map skills as frequently as math.

My status of being geographically-challenged became glaringly clear to me when I had a recent discussion with one of my family members living in a different state. We have quite an age difference between one another, so his education had something that mine didn’t – map skills. He’s a brave man, so one day he took it upon himself to explain to me where the state of Alaska is located (his locale) in relation to California (my hood). This achievement would require over-the-counter medication, a colorful globe and an unlimited long distance calling plan.

We began the impromptu lesson when he mentioned the city of Fairbanks and I said something clever like, “Oh, well that’s to the right of the state, isn’t it?” After he quit laughing he told me to go fetch that beautiful, lighted globe that was currently adding ambiance and direction to my living room, so he could explain to me just exactly how this whole map thing works.

As we began the tutorial I noticed that Alaska is “down under,” if you will, and that, of course, led to a lesson on exactly what “down under” means geographically and, as you might expect, the country of Australia came up – or was it down? Well, at any rate, we talked about it.

Quite frankly, until Nicole Kidman came on the scene that country hadn’t even appeared on my radar. No small wonder. If you don’t have map skills, you’re probably not dealing in radar either. I volunteered this aside to my relative who patiently guided me back to the task at hand; using a map.

After that little segue took place I got all animated about how colorful the globe was and then I built myself into an excited frenzy as I began to understand geography and where Alaska is located, in particular.

“So Alaska is the pink state?!” I screamed excitedly, summing up my dawning understanding as I looked at multi-colored states, colorfully shaded bodies of water, all decorated by boldly outlined meridians. I heard a sigh from my military-trained, cartography-minded, solidly left-brained relative and I couldn’t help but torment him with a final question to ponder: “Do you suppose Alaska is the pink state on every globe?”

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