Since David and I are about to travel by car to my niece’s wedding in Pittsburgh, I have been thinking about maps.
Blog readers: Maps? Who needs a map?
Well, David and I do since we don’t have a GPS in my 1998 Volvo or that capacity on my twenty dollar cellular “Go Phone” I got from Target; we need a map.
I have already mapped out our trip to Pittsburgh, and I admit I enjoyed unfolding and laying it out on the dining room table to look at possible routes. I loved determining the best route and then marking it with my handy-dandy yellow highlighter.
Blog readers: How archaic.... *yawns*
Oh, shut-up, I love a map. I love to unfold it, read it, and then confidently, and with alacrity, back to its bi-fold shape. That’s a skill, you know? To fold a map back.... I have seen many a lesser human fumble with it, huffing and puffing, and finally succumb to leaving it mussed and crumpled to be fussed over by a veteran map folder -- perhaps myself.
Growing up, my parents raised us to read all kinds of maps. We looked at Atlases and we looked at maps in encyclopedias -- we looked at topical maps -- we followed longitudes and latitudes. We knew the oceans. We knew continents. We knew where we lived and where Machu Picchi was. We knew maps, and we were nerdy enough to love them.
BTW: I like Mapquest and Google maps, but sometimes, those people are just guessing. I test it all the time to places of which I already know the quickest route, and almost every time those Internet maps will take me by a road that I know will lead me quicker and shorter. There is also something a little eerie and creepy in those Google maps ---- that anyone can type in your address in that little window -- and then, there is your home -- weeds, needing paint, and all -- on the Internet.
So, give me a map.
In fact, my whole family loved maps, all kinds, but especially road maps. We fought on our car trips as to who got to look at the map as we traveled.. who could add up the numbers the quickest -- who could tell how many miles we were from Concord or Greenville or St. Augustine.
We could only play those road trip games for so long --- billboard alphabet or who could spot a a state license plate from the state the further est away --- a great game since license plates changed yearly, sometimes sporting a different look than the year before...
I remember a friend of mine's father hung them in his garage where they spanned the walls, six or eight rows high and going back to the mid 1930s.
Do I remember that at one point the license tag actually told something about the car? Or did I make that up? It’s weight? It’s size? It’s county of origin?
BTW: Who thought of those vanity license plates? I have to admit that I had to look at the occupant of a car recently who had “Goddess12” on her license tag. I sped up to make sure that it wasn’t Hera or Aphrodite -- and wondering about the other 11.
I always worried about those fellow teachers who gave the state of Georgia another thirty bucks to have “Educator” on their license tags. I would worry that this would be just enough information for the ex-psycho student with "issues" to feel like keying.
On those car trips, we stopped at “filling stations” or “rest areas” where maps were for the taking. We excitedly gathered them -- more than we needed, of course, so that we could have our own to hold, fold, and unfold and refold. We could map out imaginary trips, great entertainment for long car rides with fidgety and competitive children.
A road map is a fount of information --- it’s a spatial look at geography on paper. It has legends, keys, colors, arrow directions, and little symbols. A map has information. It has interstates, state roads, mountains, lakes and rivers, and sometimes, points of interest.
I love information. I love just having it and not having to do anything with it. Information exercises the mind.
I remember the elementary school classroom with those huge, wonderful roll down maps that a teacher would pop over to when a particularly unschooled geography-challenged student would ask, “where is Iowa“ or “Egypt"?
Some were glossy, others kind of matty, and smooth and colorful and big -- they smelled of a kind of vinyl or rubber -- sort of like linoleum or whatever that substantial, sturdy material was -- and they fascinated me as a student. I loved to place my finger on a place and then drag it across the map to another place -- move my index finger from Atlanta to somewhere exotic like Acapulco.
Elvis movies had to be good for something. *tee hee*
Depending on what class you were in, depended on the map the teacher would have in her class. There were world maps, USA wall maps or regional maps, or maps just of the state of Georgia.
Since I was myopic in my early grades, I remember how I couldn’t see the map from my classroom seat and would sneak a close look on my way to recess. Its smooth surface a pleasure to touch, its colors vibrant, and its information much.
I always wanted to be the student who was asked to either pull the map down from its mount or even cooler, to be the one who got to jerk on the cord at the bottom just enough to send the map flying upwards …. the snapping sound, satisfying and victorious..... as it retreated neatly into its roller. It took a very practiced flip of the wrist.
Nothing could send a class of elementary school age children or even high school-ers into fits and giggles quite like the student who couldn’t get the right “tug” to flip the spring on the roller into action, but instead pulled on the map until it was stretched to the floor, Florida so far south it was in South America or South America so far south it couldn’t be seen.
*giggles at memory*
Even funnier ----- when it was the teacher doing the tuggin’ and losin’ the battle, only to give it over to the student or leave it up there, its elongated self a sign of defeat, where students would sometimes walk on it as they traversed the room.
Another classroom funny was the student who jerked on the map and sent it speeding so quickly into the roller that it banged against the wall so hard, it knocked off plaques or pictures that were propped on the frame of the board or brought the teacher from the classroom next door over to check for survivors.
One time in 4th grade in Mrs. Gibson’s class --- Jack Millirons, a particularly slow kid but of great girth, pulled and tugged on a map of the US with the state capitals so hard that the whole shebangy came flying down and barely missed decapitating the bust of Abraham Lincoln, sitting on Mrs. Gibson’s desk.
It was scary funny.
I loved that map --- its pink, purple, yellow, green and blue states with the little stars beside the capitals. When the map was rehung by the custodian, it never was the same. Jack’s brutal tug made it forever hesitant to return to its roller --- it had to be coddled and begged to return. Most days it hung crookedly out of its frame like a juvenile delinquent with his shirt tail out.
Well, I started off at one place and ended up another -- kind of like looking at a map, huh?