Wednesday, January 4, 2012

East, west, what?

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A funny thing happened when we moved to the US.

I began to confuse east from west. This is actually a big deal for me, because I have a reputation amongst my friends and family as possessing superior map reading and navigation skills. My sense of direction has meant that I rarely get lost (but it has happened). People who need to turn the map each time they turn corners? I laugh and feel a little smug when I see others doing this (sorry, but I do). I think I've mentioned before that I love maps.

I've even been told I'd make an excellent rally navigator, which I'll take as a compliment.

Of course, north and south have never been confusing and for thirty odd years, I found east and west equally polarised in my mind... but some kind of malfunction has happened to the hardwiring of my brain recently. Only with east and west.

They were never mixed up when I lived in London or Melbourne.

After giving it some thought, I've decided that it must be down to the fact that I've gone from living on the east coast of Australia (Sydney), to the west coast of the US (LA). In Sydney, heading west meant going inland and heading east meant going to the beach. It's the opposite here in LA - is it any wonder that my poor brain gets a little addled? When discussing locations here and I want to mention somewhere nearer the coast from us, it comes out of my mouth as 'east'. Wrong. Likewise when we talk about inland from where we live. It comes out of my mouth as 'west'. The only thing that anchors the correct usage is if I think about where the sun rises and sets.

I always feel like such a goose when I mix them up. It's an effort that requires some mental gymnastics for me to stop and think before opening my mouth, so that I can get it right.

It feels backwards, and I can feel the same part of my brain twisting when I look at the short date here (or even worse, have to write it)... but that, I blame on the stupidly illogical American date format. Not my fault. East and west? I shouldn't be mixing those up.

Our drive back to LA from San Diego last week just confirmed how screwed up my brain is at the moment with this east/west business, when the job of navigation fell to me (happily, as I prefer that to driving).

I wonder if there is a term for people mixing their terminology for directions, when their frame of reference has been shifted... Chartis dysphoria? Because I just made that up, and it has a pretty cool ring to it, yes?

Just don't ask me where Santa Monica is in relation to the San Fernando Valley. I can find it in a flash on a map, but getting my mouth to say it correctly is another matter altogether...

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  1. I would be totally flummoxed too - I think the same thing would happen to me in Perth to be honest.

    I like Chartis Dysphoria. Directional Confusion doesn't quite describe what you have to deal with!

  2. It really is the weirdest thing! J tells me he's also been having the same trouble, so I feel a little better about it (but just quietly, between you and I, I've always had the better navigation skills).

  3. I can't describe the direction of most anything in terms of it's compass direction. I point and say, "over there" and "that way."

    In saying that, I feel I am quite excellent at directions (although I have been known to turn a map) but I could never tell you what direction I was heading in. But we git where we needs to git so I am calling that a win.