Notes from the directionally challenged

by Karen Topakian

North South East West

Four simple words that produce within me great anxiety.

Growing up in New England, in the tiny state of RI, east meant water. Narragansett Bay.

South also meant water. The Atlantic Ocean.

Then I moved to San Francisco. And lost my directional bearings.

Here the ocean lies to the west. But the Bay still sits to the East.

In RI, you can always drive west. In SF, you can never drive west. Without getting wet.

My father* possessed a keen sense of direction probably honed during his years as a navigator in the Army Air Corps in World War II. Whenever I visited him in RI and borrowed his car, I panicked when I got lost. Unlike most cars, his had no maps. “Why don’t you have any maps in the car?” I asked him. “Because,” he said, “I always know where I am going.”

*My father would have turned 87 on Dec 13, I miss his no nonsense communication skills.