Everything You Ever Needed To Know About My Sense Of Direction

Ish used to play this game with me, back when he was living in the middle of downtown. We'd be just about ready to exit his building, and he'd say, "Quick! Which way are we going to walk?"

And I, in earnest, would say, "...um...that way?" And then he'd laugh at me.

I do not know where anything is. Especially not in relation to anything else. For instance, sitting inside my apartment right now (having no street views), I could not possibly be expected to know where the grocery store is. I casually did this yesterday, referenced running to the market and made a half-hearted wave with my hand to indicate the market was in the general direction of over there.

Ish stopped me. "Wait, did you just point to the store?"

"Oh, uh, yeah?"

"You think it's over that way?"

"Isn't it?"

More laughter.

Now, perhaps you're wondering if I have these same issues when I'm driving, and I'm sorry to say that yes, and in fact, even more so.

Driving around SOMA (that's "south of Market" for all you non-SFers, where Ish and I live now) should be really easy, for example, since all the streets are in numerical order. The challenge, however, is that most of them are one-way streets. But not all. And in one case, the street starts out as two-way and then dead ends and you suddenly have to turn, and you're like, but the street I need to be on is RIGHT THERE in front of me!

Let's just say that I have been on some amazing odysseys within a 7 block radius of my own damn home.

And as you might well imagine, since I started driving to work last summer (to a city I know even less well than the one I LIVE in), Google Maps and I have become good buddies.

Not that Google Maps helps.

Here is an entirely true story.

Last Friday, I decided to go out and get myself a sandwich at lunch from a deli I heard existed nearby. And even though I knew it was supposed to be "just around the corner," and even though I looked up the deli and discovered it was in a shopping plaza I had been to before, I still plugged the address into Google and studied the map, just to be safe.

Here is what it looked like:

Totally easy, right?

So I head out.

I manage to get to point "B" with little issue. Indeed, the plaza is just around the corner.

But when I get toward the entrance of the plaza, I have to make a choice. There are actually two plazas, kind of, and while the one on the left looks like the "real" one, I have to make a decision.

Use of aerial images for storytelling purposes only. Do not think I bothered to look at these ahead of time. (Uh, not that they would've helped anyway.)

On the left is the shopping plaza where the deli is supposedly located. I can't see the deli from where the parking lot entrance is, but I could logically conclude that the deli is located among the many establishments in the plaza.

To my right, there is the entrance to the other plaza, which mostly looks like a chain restaurant.

And so, in the two seconds I have to decide which way to turn, what with oncoming traffic and all, I make the only logical decision I can.

I turn right.

In some version of the universe, this makes sense to me. Maybe the deli will be located next to the other restaurant, on the other side of the street, across from where it's supposed to be, because...the two food establishments should be near each other? Because you never know?

Yeah, no. There was no reason for me to turn right. There was no deli in the parking lot for the other restaurant.

So I turn the car around, cross the divide, and enter the plaza parking lot. I don't see the deli immediately, so I turn right, along the front of the various stores, looking for it.

Please note that at this juncture, I have no idea how huge this plaza is, or that there's a big store at the end there.

I just keep driving in the direction of "right," hoping something will crop up that resembles a deli.

Alas, nothing does. And when I come to the end of the row, I do the next logical thing.

I go left.

And then I just keep on driving, slowly, as this enormous expanse of bargain stores and parking lot unfolds before my very eyes. I keep my eyes peeled for the deli, but after what feels like 300 miles, it's nowhere to be seen.

Eventually, I come to the end of the bargain stores. It made no sense to me to turn around at that point, so I decided to -- that's right -- turn left again. Maybe the deli's on the other side of the building! I think.

Except it isn't. In fact, nothing is. Literally. No store entrances, not even more parking. Instead, it's like I've turned down a strange alley, lined with dumpsters and the occasional car. It makes no sense, this little road. Why are there no stores here? Why is -- is that a river off to my right? What is going on?


Eventually, I come to the end of the scary, no-store non-road and see familiar territory.

I can go right, which appears to lead me right out of the parking lot, or I can go left, which leads me back where I started.

I opt to go left, on the idea that I simply missed the deli the first time around.

What I do not realize, however, is that the building to my right that I am completely ignoring because it looks like a Starbucks?

I do not realize it is the deli until I am well past it, and have to double back. Again.

And that is why it took me about 30 minutes to get to the deli .5 miles from where I started. And why Google Maps can't idiot-proof directions. And why you do not ever ask me to be a "navigator."

To recap:


That blue line would be the correct way to get there.


La la laaaaaaa.


  1. don't feel so bad, I could have easily written this. oh and was the sandwich worth it?

  2. I have been turned around in that area more time than I can count (you drove by a Toys R Us, right?) and always end up turning around in the parking lot of something that, based on your map, is probably your company's parking lot.

    Is there Google Maps Street View for this? Because that saves me. I pop down into Street View and try to determine what it'll look like when I'm actually on the road. Often you can see the signs on the businesses.

  3. i HATE that whole vicinity that you were in. veteran's blvd is hard enough, especially when there's some weird right turn lanes and it's almost impossible to get over in time and then you have to turn and then.....well, you get the picture. you totally did the "drive around toys r us" thing that i've done numerous times. don't feel bad. that area sucks. been there, done that. lived to tell the tale.

  4. Sounds like something I would do slash have done a million times. My ex-boyfriend used to do that exact same thing (test me to see if I knew which way we were about to turn). I didn't find it nearly as endearing as you seem to. :)

  5. It's like your Billy on The Family Circus. Oh, the antics you probably got up to! The neighbors still look bewildered!


    Happens to me all the time. I circle and circle and circle.

    Whereas my husband? He came equipped with the uterine compass!

  7. I am totally directionally challenged. For my birthday, The Fella got me a compass for my car. Here in Seattle everyone talks in terms of North/South/East/West and I am like, WTF people I am from California! We don't talk like that there.

    And SF freaks me out. I can't drive there. I inevitably want to run someone over from frustration.


  8. haha. Making a note to have YOU take me to lunch the next time I am in the office 'cause that driving around stuff is a lot more fun then just dashing across the street and watching Jenifer's bra fall down.

  9. thanks for making me laugh when i'm seriously having a shitty night!

  10. hahahahahah!! I am so glad I'm not the only one with this problem. That store pointing/waving thing you did when Ish caught you? This happens all the time to me. I had to learn to strictly control my hands while talking at work, to prevent them from making any directional gestures whatsoever while inside the newsroom where I work. Everyone's such a stickler for accuracy and my gestures were always wrong!!

  11. Superfantastic6:41 PM, May 05, 2008

    That pink line is the story of my life. And I am constantly gesturing in the complete wrong direction when inside buildings. I used to always make the boy drive and he thought it was just me being lazy or wanting to be chauffeured when really I just didn't want to admit that I hardly ever knew where I was going. Now I'm just back to getting lost, but at least there's no one mocking me over my complete lack of internal compass.

  12. Thank you for those last two drawings. That made me laugh out loud.

  13. Laura (Calgary)7:17 PM, May 05, 2008

    Hey thanks for the funny posts. I heard a quote the other day and reading your post right now made me think of it.
    "If we knew each other's secrets, what comforts we should find" - John Collins.
    I try to make a fool out of myself at least once a day in order to make light of.. well, life.

  14. I am usually great with directions, and I give great directions to other people. But when I get lost, I get so totally lost... like the time I was driving from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and ended up in New York by way of Vermont, that was a bad day...

  15. I am lost just looking at it. But my yarn detector beeped and I was like, "Oh, that's where the JoAnn's is."

    (I've only been once, and I walked there. And it still confuses me.)

  16. I don't follow quite what you're getting at

  17. I, too, am seriously directionally-impaired... ...and THAT is why I own a GPS device. It's the best $300 I have ever spent!!

  18. As I like to say about myself "I can't find my way out of a wet paper bag".

    I hardly leave my suburb, unless it's to go to the suburb 15 mins down the road where I grew up, or to the suburb where my Granma lives where I went all the time as a kid, and therefore know it.

    I hate to drive where I don't know. I marvel at the fact that my husband and infact, most of the people I know can tell me, when they are inside a building no less, which way is North, South, East and West. I am truly amazed! How can one do that with out seeing out the window to know where they are.

    Those things Ish laughs at about you and your sense of direction, that happens here in Oz with me and my hubby.


  19. So...getting around SF for BlogHer sounds like so much fun!

  20. Haha! You are too funny. You never fail to amuse. If it makes you feel better, I am totally capable of doing that too.

  21. One time some friends and I were going to go see a movie in a neighboring large city (it was a little indy release and hadn't made it to our city yet). Three out of four of us got directions online, which we followed carefully. They led us clearly, unconfusingly, step by step, to a small one-family house at the end of a dead end street. With the lights out.

  22. YOU ARE INSANE!!!! That was so funny!!!!!

  23. I've done this sort of thing more times than I care to remember. My family finally accepted that although I was a straight-A student, I was doomed to lifelong, absolute idiocy when it comes to direction.

  24. Isn't Erik's awesome?! Oh, and there's an Avenue and a Payless...so not only do you get yummy deli food but you can do some shopping on your lunch break. ;)

  25. LOL..Yes I think San Fran is notorious for getting us lost.

    I live South of the City and refuse to drive in the city if I did I might have a break down. I would much rather take the train and hoof it. I have much more of a sence of direction on foot than in my car.

  26. your pictures are my favorite!

  27. Google Maps is no one's friend!

  28. I do that sort of thing every time I'm in SF!

  29. People have to give me directions in "left, right", etc. If they try to tell me to turn North or South or whatever, I seem to get this "deer in headlights" look, because I have NO IDEA wtf they are talking about . . . *sigh*

  30. I would love to see you try and navigate, not with a printed Google map, but with one of those GPS things that talks to you and tells you where to go and says "recalculating" every time you screw up. Heehee!

  31. Not that I'd suggest driving back that direction without a local, but right on the other side of that river is the Old Port Lobster House. And they have the best lobster rolls. As a New Englander, you may not be impressed, but I've heard they stand up to the test.

  32. Heh. I am just like that too, and this is why I never drive anywhere. Walking, you have time to look around.

  33. Omg, I so cracked up reading this post. I have been there and done that, what frustrates me is I am normally great with directions.

    How about the directions that tell you to merge to the right, when all it is, is an exit (service type lane) with additional exits and it leads right back out to the highway?

    Thankfully I have caught these before actually doing them.

    Great blog and thanks for the laughs!

  34. If I remember correctly, your mother, when faced with the dilemna of being away from home(yet, still in town) and not knowing how to reach her next destination, would drive back home to get her bearings and then travel to her next destination.

  35. Someone told me years ago that lacking a sense of direction is a form of learning disability... makes sense to me.

    I have this same problem even with places I've lived for years. I know where my house is - and I know where I'm trying to go - but I cannot connect the two places to save my life.

    I recently got a GPS for my birthday and though it's not always right it definitely helps with the anxiety of getting lost...until the woman living inside my GPS gets iritated with me for not following where she tells me to go and I can hear the disdain and irritation in her voice as she says "Recalculating...". bitch.

    I also do the same general (incorrect) hand gestures to explain where things are and the boy laughs at me too. I'm just glad I found someone that can laugh at/with me over this and not get angry/irritated over it.

  36. This is so me! Right down to pointing in what I think is the right direction from inside my house, and never being right.


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