One of the awkwardnesses that we dysgeographicoids, or directional dyslexics (or whatever you want to call us) have to come to grips with is -- being asked for directions. You might just be walking down a street, more or less aware of where you are, and a car pulls up next to you and a lady leans out of the window and asks, how do you get to, let's say, the football stadium. I don't know about you, but I immediately break into a sweat. Especially if it's a place that I've been to a hundred times and ought to know like the back of my hand. The best way to deal with the tension and anxiety generated by such questions is to pretend complete ignorance: "I'm sorry, I'd like to help you, but I'm a visitor here." Sure, it's an itsy-bitsy lie, but a useful one, because the lady in the automobile is going to get much better instructions from the next person she asks, who will probably be completely normal, direction-wise.
I remember a particularly tragic instance of direction-giving-panic from my time in England. I used to walk, once a week, from Charing Cross Station to the British Museum. The streets were all a-tangle -- not a one of them parallel or perpendicular. I carried a detailed map but nevertheless, week after week, I managed to lose myself in the maze. I would have thought that I appeared to be totally bewildered, but nevertheless, I was several times accosted by tourists and asked the way to some monument or tube station. Of course I didn't have the least clue.
Yesterday, walking to the library, a lady in an automobile asked me the directions to Whole Foods. I tried not to panic but I could feel the clammy hand around my heart. "Which Whole Foods," I asked, stalling. "Nearest one." Well, I've been there a hundred times, so I made an effort. Plus I knew it was only two right turns. "A few blocks this way," I said, pointing, and then turn right until 30th Street. Big shopping center on the left." So the car drove off and I spent the next ten minutes wondering whether I had given the right directions. Is it after or before 30th Street? Is there an easier way? Is the other Whole Foods closer than the one to which I sent her? What would a directionally-gifted person have said?
But at least I hadn't sent her in the absolute wrong direction. I think.