Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Love a Map.

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.

No kidding.

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?



  1. Tiffany could totally give you some tips, as she's made the sojourn from Pittsburgh to Georgia and back more times than she could count!

  2. Oh, the free maps in the "filling" stations! Try to find a free map today!

  3. I honestly can't read a map if my life depended on it. I'm terrible with directions. That's why I have my smart phone. :)

  4. I'd challenge you to find a filling station WITH a map these days (forget finding them for free). None of the stations around Chicagoland ever seem to have them and I always feel bad for a lost traveler who asks the cashier and gets a foggy, distracted, and, patently, NON-answer. It happened again just last week and I was reminded of my youth.

    When I was a teen, I worked at the local convenience store and gas station. It was a Mom & Pop's type of place because chain stores only showed up on the other side of the lake (if at all). We were small town but on the shoreline of a heavily trafficked tourist destination. We'd get people from other New England states all the time. They'd be tired, confuzzled, and in need of directions. Since we were so rural, there weren't a lot of street signs (with a lot of unmarked dirt roads)so a map wasn't much help. LOL.

    Anyway, we knew the area well enough to describe the directions to them ensuring that they didn't get lost. Three white houses on the left, one red barn on the right, and when you see the large, over-grown pine tree, you're coming up to your destination... kind of thing.

    While it may have seemed backwoods in style, it was funcational and they got to where they could lay their head down for the night or have the kids take a long dip in the cool lake to settle down.

    Oddly enough, I still give directions that way even though the streets are clearly marked here. You go up three intersections and turn left. Who needs a map? LOL.

    I kid. I'm a map fan as well. My Dad used to have really old maps in his office (that's what you get when he's a postal history dealer...old stuff EVERYWHERE)and I'd marvel at their intricate, hand detailing, and musty smell. The tattered and rumpled oil cloth with frayed edges seemed to lend an extra air of authority to the knowledge they contained of boundaries from over a century ago.


    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Have a safe (but fun) road trip!

  5. Oil cloth! That's totally what it is! Thanks Jacque.

    Edie: Didn't I have a dream about you and maps one time?

  6. Shebangy? What's that? Shebang I get by the way. Please let me get Jenni's portable for you for this trip. You might disappear forever. I didn't know you were driving. You never tell me anything.

  7. I always wanted to be the kid to pull down the map or projector screen! And I was always observant enough to know that you had to do the little double pull to get it to stay or roll it back up.

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  9. I think this may say something about my generation of tech addicts, I can unfold a map like an expert, but refolding's a grand affair and the only map I can read without a permanent scowl is a subway map. Tell me to find you a random corner on my blackberry, I'll have directions for you in a minute flat. It's somewhat sad.

  10. I once was sitting under the dry erase board against the wall... and when someone went to pull the map down the whole thing fell off the wall onto my head. It was funny but painful. Ever since then I've kind of had a thing against maps.