I am a woman enough to laugh at my navigation skills that are allied with the presence of the sun. The moment it disappears, my navigational skills become alien to me and unfortunately am yet to read the stars to perceive a sense of direction after sunset.
So, this is in the previous millennium when we lived in Tokyo and more importantly Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were yet to come up with the I phone, requiring people like me to ask strangers for direction when lost, which was often enough for me to write a diary. An Indian woman does not hesitate to ask for direction, though one could write volumes on the resistance of the men in doing the same.
When lost in Tokyo, I would excuse myself and stop a passer by to ask for direction and the response was always the same. The stranger would come to full stop in a world which hurried around us. He or she would look at me and the kids to say- ‘you follow me’ and the person would slowly navigate the busy street around people returning from work, rushing home and every few minutes would stop to look back to check if I was following with my two children in tow. Yes, I would be walked home, bowed deep at and bid a respectful adieu.
This happened not once but many a times and I truly doff my hat to the Japanese hospitality, helpfulness and willingness to go out of the way to help a lost soul. I have walked with or followed perfect strangers, both men and women, often engaging in conversation in some English on their part, bit of broken Japanese on my part and lot of sign language from both. I sure set a poor example for my children in a world which tells them to not talk to strangers!
In India when one gets lost one usually asks a passerby, ‘hey brother/sister can you tell me how to get to so and so’ only to hear the direction combined with vigorous hand movements showing the road, directing a left or a right with the hand turning either ways while two more passerby might join to add their inputs. All kinds of landmarks including big trees, tall buildings, short buildings, colorful houses would be mentioned. ‘Yes, you go straight like this, turn right (with the palm showing the direction of course) at the big brown building, walk for five minutes and you will see a big tree, walk further etc etc. In Australia I have had a very exasperated GPS repeating over and over again, almost as if admonishing, ‘make a legal right turn when possible’ and that too in a city where one turns right from the left most lane!!! Yes, in Melbourne CBD in a right hand drive car, one has to be in the extreme left lane to turn right when the signal changed colour! To the Americans when the light changed color…
Now I live in the United States where directions are quite scientific with replies like go north about two miles and turn east on Sunset Boulevard and so on. For a woman who has spent majority of her life in common wealth nations, I take a while to figure the two miles into kilometers and of course with the sun down, north? What north? Where is north? Oh where is my phone! But then nothing comes close to the time when yours truly asked the driver in Accra, Ghana if we were lost and if he knew where we were, only to see him ponder deeply, think a while more, look around, turn back and confirm delightedly, “madaaam, yesss, we are er here”!!! And then I knew I was truly lost!
Have you ever been lost? Come now, we all get lost, sometimes without the phone on person! Did your experience humor you or exasperate you? Share here to get some laughs and few sympathies….