What was the name of the night time talk show guy who had the bit on "stupid human tricks"? Maybe David Letterman? I think that was it. It was a clever (and sometimes mind boggling) regular segment. Everyone on this planet has at least one sort of stupid human trick that we can do. Usually the trick - or ability - is a fairly useless but at least mildly interesting and unusual ability like wiggling your ears or quirking one eyebrow independently of the other or being able to touch this tip of your nose with your tongue.
One of my more useless "stupid human tricks" is that I can write and read forwards and backwards. Writing backwards is called Dysgraphia and even though the ability is effortless and natural for me, it has never once in my entire life come in handy except as a parlour trick. Dang.
One of my more useful stupid human tricks used to be Very Handy indeed and it involves maps. (I will reveal the actual "trick" later in the post). For those of you younger than my own children, before the advent of computer micro chips and cell phones and GPS or NAV systems, finding your way somewhere unfamiliar involved a map printed on paper. Shocking, I know! They were available for purchase almost everywhere. Gas stations in particular always had a rack of them. Or a person could buy a huge spiral bound book of maps called an Atlas. Ours were printed by Rand McNally. Funny the things a person remembers :)
Because we travelled a LOT when I was a kid, we had a lot of maps. And they were used and reused and re-re-used until the paper they were printed upon became very soft and apt to tear. We had many a map that had been scotch taped repeatedly but tape when I was a kid wasn't forever. After a relatively short time it would yellow and lose it's stickiness and fall off the paper requiring a re-taping and then a re-re-taping and the times in between the taping meant that we had to be extremely gentle when handling.
They started out small and crisp and tidy in a cleverly folded rectangle:
But when unfolded, opened to the size of the entire table top! Which is rather cumbersome while driving a car. Fully opened it was about the same size as a cars front window! Yikes! So normally, whoever was manning the map - the navigator - would refold the map into a much more manageable size revealing only the immediate section needed.
And then as the journey progress, the map would need to, once again, be refolded showing the new 100 or so miles of the journey. Over and over this would repeat until the original folds of the map were indistinguishable from the newly created folds. My terrific stupid human trick? I am able (still to this day) to refold the map into it's originally intended shape. Holy Cats! Yeah, I know, that doesn't sound like much does it. But I promise you, way back when, that was a skill baby!
It didn't matter how fragile an old many times used map was or how many tears now existed on the edges and within the folds or how many new foldy lines existed, somehow I was always able to recreate it to it's pristine original little package. Taadaa!
You Scoff? Hah! Obviously you never did a cross country trip in the car with my Dad behind the wheel, trying to beat his old time while my mother was singing at the top of her voice and my sister was needing to pee but trying to hold it and the dogs were dashing back and forth from side to side of the car getting nose prints all over the windows and a cat or two was roaming loose and a there was a gold fish in a cool whip container on the floor. I did it and I did it right every single time.
I was almost always the appointed navigator in the car. It was probably mostly due to my stellar map folding abilities but also because of my awesome map reading abilities. I adore reading maps. Calculating the approximate distance from where we were to where we were going by using my finger and the "legend" at the bottom of the page.
There is so much unexpected information on a papermap. The GPS can probably tell you the name of any businesses in the surrounding area but the papermap tell you About those businesses or attractions, restaurants, etc. There is always a list of all of the towns in whatever state your map represents and you can find it easily using the letters across the top and the numbers down the side of the map. Waitsfeld Vermont is at E-8 , so I find the E and the top and the 8 on the side and where they meet, yup she is...Waitsfeld Vermont. Coolio. Works every time.
On the GPS on my phone or the one in the car I see our immediate area, on my big old papermap I see the entire state and all of the rivers and mountains (labeled of course), the big cities and small towns, the highways and byways and dusty dirty roads.
I know which roads are Toll Roads and where the nearest airports are and I even know the general population of every city in the state. I can find rest areas and I know the elevations and which roads are closed in wintertime. Right there are the Ferries to get you across bridgeles areas and state parks and alternate routes and Scenic Attractions Galore!
If I wanted to camp (which is silly because I never want to camp) I can find all of the campground options. If I wanted to contact the Department of Historic Sites, the phone number and website are listed right there on the map. Hunting and Fishing licensing and regulations.....yup that's on the map too.
I especially liked reading the names of towns and streets as we zoomed down the road. Often I would read them out loud just to hear how they sounded. I always looked for the names of people or places that were familiar to me. And in fact, I still do that. We have driven down many a road that was not where we needed to be just because of it's name. Humphreys Drive? You better believe we are going to check that out!
And eventually we would reach our destination and everybody and their dog would pile out of the car and finally I would have the space I needed to spread out that map to it's full size once again and refold it back to the way it started.
Clearly this is not an ability that gets much use these days. But nostalgically, it is somehow still and always connected to my childhood and is therefore of great importance. The ability to refold a papermap. HAH! What a stupid human trick. Or wait. I wonder if that is connected to ability to properly fold a fitted sheet? Hmmmmmm
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.