I hate it when a friend asks for directions. It means I'm going to have to look up road names.
I rarely know the name of the road I'm driving, and for good reason. Too many of the signs are bent, missing or pointed the wrong direction to be reliable.
Plus, the same road goes by a different name every time it winds through a different town. It might be named after a flower in one town, become a tree name once it leaves the city limits and suddenly be named after a dead explorer the next town over. Yet it's all the same road.
So if I'm lost, it usually doesn't help my plight figuring out if the street I'm wandering is named for a flower, tree or dead explorer.
(I suspect the explorer died from a conniption trying to follow directions given by someone like me.)
My usual strategy for giving directions is to direct the inquiring mind to somewhere else: ''You need to ask that guy over there on the left. No, not him. The guy on my other left.''
I usually can get to where I'm going just fine, but rarely can tell someone else how to meet me there.
Driving the other day on a road - George, I think its name was, or possibly Pete - I realized the reason is because I navigate by instinct and landmarks.
You cannot give someone directions on instinct.
''Oh, you're looking for the courthouse? Take this street - Sally, I think it's named, or possibly Ruth - and drive till there's this legal, judicial kind of feeling in the air. Then turn right. You can't miss it.''
When I give those kind of directions, people go ask the guy on one of my lefts instead.
Giving directions by landmark seems the logical choice but it's embarrassing. It reveals too much about my mindset in general:
''OK, drive down that road over there, turn at the Burger King sign and keep going until you come to the Dairy Queen and take that road that angles on the side with the picnic tables.
''If you come to the Arby's, you went too far - unless you need a jamocha shake. Then go through the drive-thru - get some curly fries, too, as long as you're there - and it will dump you out onto some dinky side street. Turn toward the McDonald's sign and you should be fine.''
My dietitian sentenced me to salads without dressing for three months when I gave her those directions.
What's worse is asking an old-timer for directions. He uses landmarks no longer there:
''Well, lemme see, first you go down Maple Road there till you get to the place where lightning knocked down the big, ol' elm tree 15 years ago. The road used to be called Elm Road till lightning burned up the elm. You can't very well name it Elm Road if the elm's gone.
''Anyway, turn there and keep going till you get to the old Hampton place. I can't recall who lives there now but they've got some fine looking cows. There's a Holstein in the field that must be 1,600 or 1,700 pounds. When you see her, you wanna take a left on that bike path. It don't look like much and has a couple bumps and holes and such, but it's a dandy little shortcut...''
Come to think of it, those are better than any directions I ever gave. Have a nice trip.
----- Point the way to the Burton W. Cole fan page on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.