Where in the World is... Basically Anything

I've always been bad at geography. I don't remember directions well, I don't know which way is North at any given moment, I get lost easily. I had a terrible time with map tests. The car GPS system changed my whole life - I wouldn't have gone half the places I have without it, or not without a lot more anxiety barfing and palpitations. It kind of just became a thing, though, where I would say "I'm terrible at geography" and leave it at that. As if it was an irremediable condition. As if there was NOTHING AT ALL that could be done about it.

My friend Collette has really good directional sense. If she drives somewhere once, she knows where it is forever. And she knows where stuff is in the world too. "I learned it from television", she said once, and when I looked at her with blank incomprehension she said "You know, like, I learned where Korea was from MASH". I watched MASH faithfully. I had no freakin' clue where Korea was. It's just not an area of my brain that lights up when relevant information to it presents itself.

When Angus was going to Oklahoma last year, Matt immediately started trying to figure out if he could do some business in Austin and then drive up to Oklahoma for a couple of days, since Oklahoma was north of Texas. HE JUST KNEW THAT. Rather comfortingly, when I repeated that Oklahoma was north of Texas to a few of my friends, they hadn't known it either.

This summer when we were all camping at Sandbanks, a few of us walked from the beach to the café for ice cream. Collette got a coffee that had a world map on the cup. She started asking the kids where certain European countries were. Her kids knew almost all of them. Eve knew none (I didn't either, but fortunately for me she was only asking the kids). Eve and I decided this could not stand. We came home and started studying maps on the internet. You don't even want to KNOW how low my score was the first time I tried to guess where all the states were.

It's been really interesting. Being able to visualize where a state is on the map when it's mentioned for Matt's work or on the news is a whole new thing for me. Some things aren't as south as I thought they were. Massachusetts is shaped like a gun. I knew Rhode Island was small, but dude, it's, like, MINISCULE.

Then I started learning capitals. I was fairly confident that I would know some, if not most of those. WRONG. Now, am I wrong or should there not be a rule that if a city is a capital of one state it shouldn't be a well-known city in another state? No? Just me? Capital of Massachusetts? SALEM, I confidently typed. Nope. There IS A Salem, Massachusetts, but it's not the capital. Just like there's a Charleston, South Carolina, but it's not the freaking capital. Who the hell has ever heard of Columbia, South Carolina? Well, a great many people, clearly, but I still think it's bullshit.

Eve came down once when I was doing the capital quiz the other way, where you get the capital and have to pick which state it belongs to. When we got to Oklahoma City, she said "well obviously it should be Oklahoma, but is it a trick? Are you supposed to overthink it? I'm suspicious." For Jackson she said Mississippi and when I said "do you just know that because of Uptown Funk?" she said "well I'd say no, but it's playing in my head now, so probably".

Pierre and Bismarck are North and South Dakota, but I regularly mix up which one is which.

We went on to the rest of the world and now I'm fairly confident that I wouldn't be one of those people who gets stopped on the street by Jimmy Kimmel and accidentally goes to war with South Korea.

"Don't bother learning it all", Collette said. "Just learn something weird like Kazakhstan". I TOTALLY KNOW WHERE KAZAHSTAN IS. AND Turkmenistan.

Still keeping my GPS, though. And don't ask me which way is North. Not sure how to improve that, other than to have a compass implanted somewhere.


Nicole said…
My sense of direction is atrocious. I think this was one of the things that brought us together as friends, way back in the beginning. Get out of my dreams, into my car...and we can drive aimlessly together, ending up somewhere we totally didn't intend to. Having GPS has also changed my life and I am semi-confident going new places now, although I google them first because of the time I went to see my new niece and ended up outside the city, on a dirt road. Their new neighbourhood was not on GPS, but still that seems like a poor excuse.
StephLove said…
I think it's possible I may never learn anything about geography again now that my kids have aged out of the elementary school GeoBowl competition. I learned a lot volunteering to grade the entrance tests and quizzing my kids the years they made the team.
Lynn said…
I was just reading this post thing, "OMG, I need to learn this stuff by tonight for WTN!" and then I realized, NO I DO NOT, because Allison is now our State Capital go-to. SWEET.
Jenny said…
Sorry to be so late in commenting but I got such a kick out of this because I grew up in South Carolina and went to college in Columbia, back during the heyday of Hootie and the Blowfish. Also, my grandmother is a geography whiz--she rocks that column when it comes up on Jeopardy.

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