A Bad Navigator

I’ve always loved maps. I’m good at reading maps. If you give me a standardized test that has map questions, I’ll get them all right. No problem.

I love studying maps. Fictional maps, real maps. Where I want to go. Where I’ve been. My husband loves maps too. We have maps all over our bedroom walls of the places we’ve been.

But give me a map while I’m going somewhere, and ask me questions, and I’ll get all messed up. Often, I mess up east and west. I’ve always thought this was because I’m a slow thinker (like molasses). I’m especially slow when under-pressure. Recently, on a trip to Minneapolis, I discovered that my real problem is something a little different.

I read too much.

I read more than 100 books a year. I probably read more than two or three hours every day. My eyes are used to traveling left to right. Moving through a page in a certain direction. The past, where I was, what just happened, is on the left. I’m moving toward the right. What is going to happen is on the right side of the page.
Maps only work this way if you are traveling from west to east. If you are traveling from east to west, you are “moving” across the map opposite of the way you read a book.

If I look at a map and I’m not in that place, I totally get the map. No confusion at all.

If I look at a map and I’m in that place or moving through that place, my brain wants the left side of the paper to be where I was and the right side of the paper to be where I’m going.

I only just figured this out. I haven’t tried to navigate anywhere since discovering this about myself. Perhaps I will become a better navigator now that I can fight my brain’s impulse to put myself on a map the way I put myself in a book. Perhaps not.

I’m curious if anyone else has this problem. You avid readers out there. Does this ring true for you?

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