Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Need More Compasses

I haven't known which direction I'm going for about two years now.

When I lived in Florida, I knew pretty much without thinking which way was North and which way was East. Even the fact that I-4 said it went east and west didn't obscure the fact (known to every Orlandoan) that it goes North and South in the middle of the state -- yes, it starts in Daytona on the East coast and eventually ends up in Tampa on the West coast, but it wants to go to Disney, too, and detours for a long while. Anyway, I knew what I meant, as did most of my friends, highway signs notwithstanding.

Anyway, I knew the directions. I knew that when I lived in Ocoee, my bedroom window faced West, and when I lived in Orlando it faced East. The house in Eustis faced South. I knew which way to look when I heard thunder -- storms nearly always came from the West and North. The Orlando International Airport was south of Orlando, and the Altamonte Mall was on the North side. See? I knew were I was. Even when I moved and lived in a different house, I knew which way was which.

I miss that.

The townhome we now own is an end unit and has its few windows on three sides. It faces east, the patio is on the west, and the single side window downstairs is on the north side. We live in Seneca, which is west of Clemson, which is south of Greenville and North of Atlanta.

I have to check maps to know this. I never feel like I am properly oriented. My internal compass insists that all of South Carolina is upside down and facing the wrong way. Seriously, in my mind, when I sit with my back to that downstairs window (which I do often because that's how the living room is oriented) I am sitting with my back to the South. That puts the West on my left hand, which moves Seneca further east. Two years now I've looked in the cardinal directions and recited the proper name for them, but at any given moment if I'm asked what direction I'm facing, I can't remember. I con sult maps constantly if I dare go anywhere. I memorize landmarks. I drive around and get lost, then try to find my way home again, usually a fool proof method of learning my way around.

I still don't know where anything is.

It doesn't help that most of South Carolina -- or, at least, the Upstate -- is arranged, not in the traditional more-or-less grid pattern familiar to Floridians, but as a series of adjacent and occasionally overlapping triangles. I don't know how many times we've gone to a particular location from a particular location on one road, and returned on another road. It's confusing. At first I accused The Husband of trying to deliberately keep me at home so that I wouldn't use expensive gas and possibly find expensive things to do.

Now I realize it's a state wide conspiracy.


Nina May said...

This pretty much describes what happens to me every time I go to a landlocked place. I grew up mostly in Sydney, which is a horrendously meandering, hilly, triangular, zig-zaggily organized place, but the ocean is east. Always. And I know roughly where the ocean is, and so I know where I am.

I came to Chicago, and the same principle applied: the lake is always east. It can take me a little bit longer (and the grid layout actually does disorient me sometimes!) to figure it out, but that big body of water is just enduringly there. Get me away from one of those, and, yeah – no hope. I just don't think I was made to live in the middle of things. I need edges.

Or the conspiracy is expanding its scope....

Sherri said...

Well, in Florida, I had the Atlantic to the east, the Gulf to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the south, so looking for large bodies salt water didn't work so well, but I'd just been there so long that it was natural to me to know. Plus, weather runs in very specific patterns in Florida, so that helped.

I am not sure why I find this area so freaking confusing, but it just doesn't go away. Thus, I think it's a conspiracy. Someone has mucked with me.