Night, Day, and the Directionally Impaired


I worked Bonnie Doone (City Station 9) last night. We had a call off of S. Rielly road and due to some difficulty extracting the patient we didn’t leave the scene until 640am. It was my turn to drive.

For those who don’t know, I am extremely directionally impaired. I have no internal compass, at all. When I go home to VA-where I had lived for my entire life until moving here-I still get lost. I still struggle to remember how to get to places like, oh, the mall. I can SEE the destination in my mind, I can even see some of the intersections I’ll have to pass through to get to the destination, but I can’t figure out the actual ROUTE. I have no map in my head (I’ve tried, doesn’t work), if I do, by some miracle, learn a route to a destination I cannot use my knowledge of that route to get me somewhere else. I have to learn a route to each individual destination seperately, exhaustively, repetitively and then maybe, MAYBE at some point something will click and I’ll actually go, “OHHHH, THAT is where the “route-to-the-mall” and “the-route-to WalMart” connect! Oh and don’t tell me I need to learn how to read a map. I know how to read a map and can navigate just fine when someone else is driving, but between tracing the correct route in the map book to actually getting behind the wheel my mind goes blank. Every time. I can’t remember the route from map book to driving, and people frown on me trying to read WHILE driving. Hard to watch the road and the map book simultaneously…

Probably due to this abysmal sense of direction, when I first started working as a paramedic I had mini panic attacks every time I had to drive. My stomach would sink, my heart would race, and I would literally feel like impending doom was about to swallow me whole. Every. Time. By the end of the day I’d come home exhausted, often close to tears, due to trying SO HARD to find my way around city-and failing. Now, Fayettenam doesn’t exactly help. I think the city planner had a cat and when it came to designing roads the cat vomited a hairball on the map and thats the design they went with. Also, a lot of the roads have multiple names. But my horrendous sense of direction means it took me a lot longer to get even a little bit comfortable with the main roads.  Trying to find my way to the hospital with a patient in the back when I had no clue where I was? Yeah, didn’t help the anxiety. I got lost, several times, enroute to the hospital. I over heard one drunk guy in the back say to my partner, “She doens’t have a clue where she’s going does she?” My partner graciously said I was “new” even though I had been a paramedic for 8 months. The drunk guy responded, “Thats ok, she’s hot.” Great, I really was the token dumb blonde.

It’s taken over two years of working here and I can finally reliably find my way to the hospital from most (not all, but most) places in the county. (I am very proud of this, it may seem a small thing but to me, it’s kinda a big deal) My current partner is awesome, he doesn’t make me feel like an idiot no matter how many times he has to re-explain a route to me, and that means I learn a lot quicker. He is one of those individuals with a built in GPS in his brain, we consult the map book on occasion, but he even remembers roads in the neighborhoods without difficulty.

So why all this rambling about directions and getting lost? Lets get back to that call we had this morning. My partner gives me quick directions to get to a road I know, I repeat them back to make sure I have it right, jump in the front seat and check us in route. I’m repeating the directions in my head like a mantra (Left, then right, then left again. Left, then right, then left again. Left, then right, then left again.) and we pull out. No problem with the first road, I’m not overly familiar with it so I’m trusting entirely to my partner’s directions and he has yet to ever get me lost. Turn right onto Yadkin Rd and I’m happy, because this end of Yadkin is familiar, I’m cruising along, trying not to squint to badly in the sunlight, aaaaaaand I almost completely miss the turn left on to Santa Fe. My stomach lurches a little bit, but I got into the turn lane smoothly and calm the rising anxiety, squinting around at the intersection. And it hits me, with annoyance and chagrin. I’ve been working nights for over a year. I’ve been driving at night. Nothing looks the same in daylight. No wonder I still get confused trying to get to Barnes and Nobles during the day, no WONDER I miss turns, intersections, and on ramps when trying to run errands during business hours. My map of the city is shrouded in darkness, with street lamps and gleaming business signs marking my way. I can still find my way around during the day-but only with a lot of U turns as I belatedly recognize landmarks while I’m driving past them.

Sigh. I am photosensitively directionally impaired. Another good reason to let someone else drive…


One response »

  1. i understand that conundrum of everything looking different in night and day! i’ve almost missed the turn into our new place because it’s so sneaky at night! i’m glad to hear you’re learning to navigate bit by bit… just in time to move back to VA and re-learn all of THOSE routes 😉 hehe


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