People

5 08 2010




Allow me a generalization

5 08 2010

Disclaimer: written after a particularly frustrating experience  trying to get to the airport.

South Africans are worthless with maps (generalized enough for you?).  They consider them a colossal waste of paper.  This quality crosses all racial barriers.  I’ve had interactions with multiple people who either proved they couldn’t read a map or that they had no use for it.  Their understanding of a route consists of street lights and garages, potholes and places of business.

It is much more organic and, in a way, brillliant.  But it doesn’t work for me.  I need a visual, something concrete.  They would rather describe to you the colors of the signs as you go by.

It might sound something like this:

“How do I get to the airport?”

“Turn right, take a left at the second robot, pass a Total Garage on your right, go straight, straight, straight.  Turn left, you’ll see a Steers, then there’s a bridge, turn right.  Then you’ll see signs for the airport.”

It simply doesn’t register that this might be difficult for an out-of-towner (Read: impossible), much less that it might be difficult to remember.

In many cases, the previous could be shortened to something like: M1 South to M3 East.  If you showed them this on a map, they would deny it was the same thing (truth fact).

It doesn’t help that English is most commonly a second or third language.    More than once in the last few days, I’ve been told to run left while the individual is motioning to the right.  Perfectly understandable: it is difficult to keep tidy eleven words for “left” in a single brain.  I would fail miserably giving directions in my seventh best language.

Another real life interaction:

“Turn right.  Go straight for a few kilometers.  You’ll see an intersection with a Wimpy’s on the right, a Nando’s on the left, a Shell across from that, and a Seven Eleven on the other corner.”

“Do I turn there?

“No.  Keep going.”

(Repeat four times)

(!!!)  Please just tell me the name of the relevant road and whether it’s left of right.

Sometimes, it can be endearing.  When you’re late, it is more frustrating than anything.  Especially when an extra day’s charge from the car rental company is on the line.