Sunday, August 28, 2011

Geographically Challenged

While driving down to San Mateo (which, it turns out, is to the south of San Francisco) to visit K-poo a few weeks ago, I drove on a portion of the 80 that I hadn't driven on before. I expected to eventually cross the Bay Bridge to San Francisco -- when I saw a bridge in the distance my first thought was "Hey, I made better time than expected." And then my second thought was "That's not the Bay Bridge". Then I crossed over the short bridge and had no idea what bridge I had just crossed.

That, in a nutshell, has always been my approach to geography. I've lived in or near the SF Bay Area for about fifteen years, and I managed not to realize that SF was on a peninsula for at least the first ten of those. I grew up in Orange County and only know two freeways there. I'd be hard pressed to identify more than half the states on a US map. (To be fair, though, there's no point to all those little states on the east coast, and I don't feel bad about that.) At one point in high school I had memorized all the countries in Africa, but I think at least fifteen of them have changed names since then, so what little knowledge I had is still wrong. (Burkina Faso? Really?)

It's not that I have a bad sense of direction -- even if I take a wrong turn, I can usually figure out how to head back to where I'm trying to go. I just don't know anything about where I am when I get there.

I know that Tahoe is at a higher elevation because that was used as an example in my respiratory physiology class (and the point of the question was to prove why you shouldn't take a dog in heart failure with you to high elevations), but I don't actually have any real idea of where Tahoe is, and I couldn't name the mountain range it's on. Also, I'm pretty sure, but not positive, that I live within a few hours of Tahoe.

So pretty much my grasp of where things are is limited to the following:
1) Is it my house?
2) If it's not my house, have I walked there before?
3) If I haven't walked there before, have I driven myself there within the last two years?

If the answer to all of those is no, it may as well be in Ouagadougou.


jeff said...

I prefer the name of the second largest city in burkina faso, named after a tolkien character: Bobo Dioulasso

Jill said...

Theresa, Theresa, Theresa, don't you know that you drop the "The" before freeway names/numbers once you go over the Grapevine? :)

Theresa B (of Nebulopathy) said...

Jill, I intentionally left the "the" in order to prove without a doubt that I grew up in Southern California. Because really, I can't prove it any other way.

Jeff, I think at some point someone is going to admit that Burkina Faso and all of its names are just a big joke and the rest of the world was in on it.

JJ said...

I disagree about not needing to know the little states on the east coast. I think it is better not to know the boring ones in the middle because they are kind of all the same. Ohidaho. Rich agrees with you about the pointlessness of having states so small that you can (literally) drive through 4-5 states in 2 or 3 hours here. He also insists on using definite articles on all highways.

Theresa B (of Nebulopathy) said...

Well, to be honest, I'm not always really clear on the big rectangular ones in the middle either.

There's an implied "freeway" after every number, hence the article. Besides, in the Bay Area, you really need the "the" to prepare your brain to catch whatever the first number is before the "80" since heaven forbid they name any freeway something that doesn't end in 80.