Monday, March 28, 2005

How to get lost!!!

I don't know how it works for other people but when I'm down south (I mean way down south, in Australia) I always know which direction is north. Ask me to point to the north and I'll generally be correct to within 20 degrees. Ok, that's still a fair margin of error but at least I don't point toward Antarctica!

In 1986 I spent 5 weeks in the USA. 2 or so of those weeks were spent staying in a hotel at Post Falls Idaho, just across the border with Washington State. I had a rented car and a weekend free; what more natural than to drive north to Canada and add a third country to my list of countries visited? (The list is still short). So I drove up some highway whose number eludes me and crossed the US/Canada border.

I crossed the border about 2 PM - and drove around for a while with no specific destination in mind. I was in Canada - that was all that mattered. So after an hour or so I bethought that I had about 3 hours driving back to the hotel; just enough time to make a dinner appointment with the rest of the international crew attending Hewlett Packard training. So off I headed, southwards. Or so I thought. It really did feel like I was driving south. Maybe an hour later I stopped to check the map and realised that those signs I'd seen indicating that Radium Springs was so many miles ahead meant I was driving north! I missed dinner that night!

It felt like I was driving south.

I find that I cannot, here, judge at all which direction is which. I suspect it's because I'm too used to the sun being on that side of the sky; but here it's on the other side of the sky and that disorients me. Down south the sun is always in the northern half of the sky and the further south you are the further north it appears. Obviously it's the opposite if you're in the Northern Hemisphere. But even knowing that intellectually isn't enough; if you were to ask me to point to the north in an unfamiliar environment I'll get it wrong if I'm here. I'll probably get it approximately right if I'm in Australia. Many is the time I've thought my wife was driving me westward when we were travelling east.

Whilst we're on the subject of that drive to Canada; it took place on Saturday August 2 1986. I have two reasons for remembering the exact date. The first reason is that it was the 1 year anniversary of my first marriage. The second reason is that I was fined for not voting in a local council election for a suburb of Melbourne held on that day. It was held that my being in Canada on that day was not sufficient reason for failing to vote in the local election. Actually I don't disagree with that decision. Postal voting is available.

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