Friday, April 30, 2010
My kind’s your kind, I’ll stay the same
I wish with everything in me that I could relive a few distinct moments, in particular those instances when I was stalled in the midst of a hasty departure by my dad calling after me, “Catherine, let me make you a map.” I’d duck back inside to find him poised at the dining room table with a red Bic pen in hand, carefully studying a larger map of St. Louis. The fodder for his map. My map.
This was a pre-GPS era. It probably wasn’t pre-MapQuest for the rest of the world, but it was for us, when going online involved a 10-minute symphony of beeps, hisses and static as our little Packard Bell clawed desperately at the outer limits of cyberspace. Attempting to create driving directions would cause a definite crash and a potential seismic shift.
If I had it my way, I’d just jump in the old Geo Prism and rely on my memory to get me where I needed to go. I pride myself on a particularly keen sense of direction, and I rarely got lost. But my dad had the foresight to realize that my mind map might one day fail me – that I could potentially leave to meet my friends for a movie and end up at an abandoned strip club across the Mississippi.
The entire process was a lesson in patience. I had places to go, Steak ‘n Shakes to loiter in, Weezer lyrics to overanalyze, cigarettes to not smoke, memories to make. But first, I had to wait in the front hall, sighing and pacing as he drew arrows, sketched landmarks and wrote out street names in his patented all-caps font. The final result was so precise, so endearingly perfect that I’d soon enough forget my frustration over missing the first five minutes of Bowfinger.
In hindsight, I wish I’d saved at least one of those maps instead of letting them get buried and broken under piles of physics books and pools of sun-warmed soda. I can’t say I ever completely depended on them to reach a destination, but they were always next to me for the journey, and that part hasn’t really changed at all.
Wonderful hand-drawn maps from firefighters, club-hoppers, Boy Scout dads, grandmothers, and Alexander Calder.
(Image from Slate)