Sparked by Words

In Need of a Map

Ask Siri how to get where you’re going, and she’ll tell you, “In two hundred feet, turn left at Market Street.” When you miss that turn, she’ll adjust her directions, unperturbed by your error. “In a quarter mile, turn left at Waverly Avenue.” One way or another, Siri’s GPS master will guide you home.

But I miss maps. I miss all those Thomas Guides, coming out each year with new additions marking the way to new destinations. I miss wandering various routes to get someplace, knowing the adventure was in the travel along back roads and new tracts, not the destination. If I got lost, I’d just pull out Thomas and find two or three options out of my quandary.

Lucky for me because I have no intuitive sense of direction. Just think how many times I’ve ended up on the back deck staring at the eucalyptus trees swaying in the wind when I was on my way to the laundry room. Who wants to sort white clothes from colors when I could be finding the perfectly colored autumn leaf, studying the bark peeling like blisters from the trunk, or watching ants march along the trail their queen has commanded?

Siri would tell me, “Turn around at the patio door and enter the living room. Proceed directly to the garage and park at the washing machine. Sort clothes.” My impulse is to grab the map and look for forests nearby. What trees grow there? I must explore. Laundry can wait.

People no longer have a sense of where they are in the world. Turning right or left in hundreds of feet gives no idea of placement. We don’t realize we’re only a few miles from the ocean, or around the corner from the favorite playground where we played as kids. Thomas Guides would tell us when we examined its pages, but Siri never makes the connection so neither do we.

I find similar displacement when looking up words on the online thesaurus instead of browsing the 1248 pages of The Original Roget’s International Thesaurus, 6th Edition.

Take the word “belief.” Its designation in Roget is number 953, and there are twenty categories displaying hundreds of entries from nouns to verbs to adverbs. The word “philosophy” is similarly described in number 952, and 954 is the word “credulity.” Peruse the thousands of words and you grasp relationships far beyond believing in anything. You begin to believe in everything as a possibility. Some of the things I learned were the relationship of belief to opinion, esteem, faith, trust, understanding, credibility, swallow, certainty, conviction, persuasion, dogma, confession, gullibility, ingenuous, viewpoint, notion, estimation, and idealism. All that education and much more in five pages. The broad spectrum of language doesn’t display as much diversity or breadth of interpretation on the Internet, not without a lot of clicking and toggling.

Luddite that I am, don’t despair. I’m on the Internet plenty, looking up photographs of macaws which leads to exploring the rainforests of Peru, then discovering that macaws are zygodactyl. Nope, not gonna tell you – look it up. And in case you want to know how much of a Luddite I really am, consider that I used to design patterns for fabric, eventually to be printed in yards and yards of cotton that became board shorts, bikinis, and Hawaiian shirts, by drawing and painting them with Luma dyes on masa paper. Luma dyes are long discontinued, sadly, but masa paper is still available. Except for my turquoise-faced self portrait, a three-minute sketch made about ten years ago, I’ve never designed art on the computer. I love the slick sensation of real paint on my hands and the stain of color under my fingernails lasting through several showers. Who wouldn’t love to dress up in sequins and heels with teal colored streaks on their hands? I’ve attended more than one wedding so uniquely decorated.

We will not discuss texting. I refuse to read them, I can’t write them. I have a flip phone but not a smart one, and texting is an exercise in self control on the device. My default strategy is the smash the cell phone against a wall when trying to text, so I don’t. Want to talk to me? Do it the old fashioned way – run into me in the mall, or call me on the landline, or even send me an email. Texting is for the birds, hyper-texting is for Twitter, and surely you realize I’ve never had anything to do with Twitter. My birds were all real, beautiful cockatiels who played with my sons when they were little.

I’ve learned just enough digi-techie stuff to get by in the modern world but not enough to be useful to anyone but me. To prove my point: we finally donated our nineteen-year-old car to the high school auto shop program. As of a month ago, I’m driving a much safer 2015 RAV 4 and have learned how to start the car without a key. Without a key, I tell you! But I haven’t programmed Siri, or whoever likes to give driving directions, into the car. So I still need a map. At least, I look up where I want to go on Map Quest. But only because they no longer update the Thomas Guides.

Funny the things you miss as you grow older.



Image  courtesy of The Original Roget’s International Thesaurus, 6th Edition, copyright Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D., 2001, Harper Collins.


Image of The Geographer by Johannes Vermeer. This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:

This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less – published anywhere before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.

Comments on: "In Need of a Map" (36)

  1. Sharon, thank you for a humorous and yet thoughtful post. I do love maps myself and will therefore always know where I am heading. To start with – direction. North, south, east, west. GPS doesn’t tell you. You are sort of locked in to a small boxed area of the planet.
    Good in new cities I grant.
    I also love real time birds twittering ( tweeting) . They do it so much better. Technology is good as long as we watch who is in charge. I would hate to miss that ocean too.😊 .


    • I’m really glad you enjoyed this article, Miriam. I fear technology, while making so many things accessible, has confined our lives to what can be seen on a monitor – or heard in a brief message.


  2. Wow that’s really awesome. I have been very lucky to read your post and to be truthful, reading your post made my day 😊. Thanks a lot for posting it. Take care and have an awesome day ahead my friend 😇


  3. Our old navigation system used to go ‘harumph, recalculating’ when we didn’t follow instructions. I’m with you on texting. I’m a touch typist, so what’s the benefit of using two thumbs and a miniscule keyboard?


    • That’s the other thing, isn’t it, Peggy. My fingers clunk all over those tiny keypads – last time I used one, I think I started the trains going across the Rocky Mountains. But you should see my grandkids – they don’t even touch the keys. They kind of slide their fingers all over and somehow send very accurate messages.


  4. I’ve never used Siri for that. Aren’t you the techie! I do love maps though, always bring up the one that shows all the geography around where I am–for the very reasons you mention: I want to understand what’s around me.

    When I traveled a lot, I had map books from all over the country. Too much work!


    • Jacqui, aren’t you a bit sad to see the demise of Thomas Bros. maps company? I am. And actually, tho my new car has a GPS, I haven’t yet figured it out. She’s silently watching my moves.


  5. Oh my goodness – I knew we had a similar outlook on life and limb but now I’m sure we were con-joined twins, separated at birth and adopted out separately. Your “multi-directional” brain is a mirror image of mine.

    Now back to the laundry where I detoured to the computer because I was lost in the hallway and turned left instead of proceeding straight.

    P.S. Text?


  6. This resonates on so many levels right now, but mostly I like the feeling you conjured up inside of me. I enjoy a map. Reading it in the car, folding it, and sharing directions with the person next to me. The sense of adventure together. Thank you, Shari


  7. I love maps for their beauty but I never really used them–except for imaginary journeys. i actually have a natural sense of direction when traveling and when I get lost it’s almost on purpose. There are these really cool topographical maps that our county puts out online where you can explore and spy around your neighborhood. When house hunting my husband noticed a hidden garbage dump next to the house we almost bought.


  8. Sharon, I can relate to this. It’s hard to find a good old paper map anymore (the kind gas stations used to give away – free!) And I too prefer my thesaurus in book form (still have the one my mom gave me in highschool plus a newer version). I’d rather be out experiencing life than reading about it on a computer. Have given in on the smart phone and texting though (….sigh…)
    Thanks for an enjoyable post! 🙂


  9. Shari, maps are wonderfully tactile and exciting – before setting off it is possible to explore an area, its surroundings, landscape…Of course the internet is a great way to learn about new areas and things around, the paper maps still hold a special place in my heart. From young I’d always follow our route as we travelled on the map, imagining the towns, villages we passed. Your Thomas Guides sound lovely but what a pity they don’t update them. I had to smile at how so many don’t known even their directions any more…I’ve met many young people who can’t say which direction a place is from them.

    There is special dreamy quality to your post, Sharon, a joy to read about how the autumn leaves took your attention away from the laundry- a time to drift, the chores can wait!

    Congratulations on your new to you car!! Yeah, well done on your old one – what is it with the fashion for everything new…I had one car for sixteen years and shed tears saying goodbye to it…just the costs of repair got too much!

    Wishing you a lovely weekend! 😀❤️


    • Wouldn’t you love to see folks putting down their phones and looking up to see the world around them? I can’t believe how often I point out the sunset, flowers in bloom, or the new paint on a house. Forget trying to explain east, west, north, south.

      Thank you for your lovely comment about my writing, Annika, though I must admit – it doesn’t take much to distract me from doing laundry.

      Have a great weekend yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Our sentiments about today’s technology are exactly the same, Shari, although there are two small differences between us. I love the Roget’s Thesaurus but I am addicted to Thesaurus.Com. The second one is that, although I have a flip phone, it sits in a drawer in need of a phone card I will probably never buy. After all, when I am away from the house, there is always someone with me who has a phone with them. I cannot hold the phone and walk too so there is no point to carrying one around.


    • I went to a conference at a university nine years ago and couldn’t find a single payphone to call my husband and tell him I was OK. Back then, every minute you used your cell phone, you got charged for it so no one offered to let me borrow theirs. (Yes, I did hint I was more than willing to pay for five minutes’ use.) He’d been worried all week. At the same time, it became critical for me to stay in touch with my aging parents and our sons in other states. So hubby got me a cheap track phone. Now I use it only for emergencies and to stay in touch with the residence where my mom lives in case of emergency regarding her needs. Friends and family know not to use it for casual contact with me. So I get you choosing not to buy a phone card. I also understand your particular needs, Glynis. I just wish folks would put their phones down and pay attention to what’s in front of them.


  11. You really waxed poetic on this one, Sharon! As much as I love technology, I really loved those Thomas guides, in fact I love maps in general. Your car sounds great, I love my 2010 rav 4 😊 and it’s low tech.


  12. Denzil - Life Sentences said:

    Dendrocopos major is one too Sharon. And I’m not going to tell you what that is either. 🙂


  13. My Mum loves maps. She studies them and they give her her bearings. Without them she feels lost and somewhat afraid. I don’t mind maps but I don’t have to have them. We travelled through Europe with a compass. We knew what direction we wanted to head and we saw things we would never have seen had we followed a map. Mum, who travelled with us on that trip was unnerved by our lack of care. How could she research sites of importance if we didn’t know what we were going to see. Like you though, I like thesaurus and dictionaries in the hand. Glad to hear that your old car has been retired but will be put to good use and you can now rest easy when you go out for a drive. Don’t forget your map…..


    • You and Roger are really adventurers! I don’t think I could travel that way, especially to someplace like Europe. But then I have no natural sense of direction either. Do you have travel plans in near future?


      • We used a compass. What we didn’t know for awhile was that the metal chassis of the car affected it and no matter what we we turned we were always travelling north. Threw us for awhile and we got very lost.
        We are hoping to do a trip next year but I’ll wait and see if either of us gets motivated enough to organise it. We hate the thought of leaving the dogs and Mum for a long time. (8 weeks possibly).


      • The story about the compass and the car that refused to be polar-ly benign is pretty funny!
        As for eight weeks on the road – that’s a long time and could be bliss or could be misery. Hopefully will be a fun adventure.


I would love to know what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: