Friday, April 10, 2009

Map[Quest for Fire]fox

Last week, I got fed up with never being able to answer the geography questions in crosswords, broke down, and bought an atlas. Honestly, this may be the best thing I've ever done for myself. University and living on my own are okay, I guess, but knowing where Aruba is? Amazing.

Seriously, I am a map geek. Transit maps are my one true love, which has led, in the past, to purchases like this book, which I found at the MTA's Transit Museum. (Mecca!) That book, with its complete compendium of subway maps and unabashed cartographic nerdery, is like soul food. But nerd cannot live on transit map alone: I have happily perused city street maps in the Yellow Pages as a way to kill time, and I've had a blast looking at bike maps, highway maps, Mapquest, and the You Are Here signs in malls. I'm not picky. I'm incredibly dorky, but picky I'm not.

Even if that journey is only navigating from my house to the Costco on the Queensway, maps are an incredibly succinct and well-designed infomation tool. Instead of all that "head east, turn right, blah blah blah" nonsense that infects giving directions, maps are all, "Here, just follow this line. I'll get you there. Don't sweat it." Very reassuring. And as a person who will forget whose number I've dialled as the phone is ringing, verbal directions tend run a swift course: in one know the rest.

Besides, we've all seen that map where people have plotted where they've gone, or where they've moved from. It's delightful; I feel like I know so much more about a person if I know that they spend time in Amsterdam. Or Israel. Or Brazil. That's ridiculous, of course, but it's the same phenomenon that makes a guy go from average to scorching hot as soon as he reveals an accent. We love stories, and studding your map with I've-been-here pins implies you've got a bunch.

I'm looking forward to the day when I get to add some pins to my own map. I was relatively well-travelled as a small child: trips to Japan and Hong Kong aren't totally common in the 5-to-7 year old category. Since then, though, I've stuck to North America, and it's a shame. I've never seen the Eiffel Tower, or Nile Delta in full desert bloom, or the Andes. But I'd like to.

So, yeah: maps are a promise, too, not just a tool. (Ha: tool.) And by the way, without even having to refer back to the atlas? Aruba's just north of Venezuela. Apparently, it's owned by The Netherlands. Yeah, I'm that good. Suck on that, Matt Jones.

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