Friday, March 07, 2008


I miss the maps that I was able to collect as a child. Back then, one could obtain great maps for free from racks in gas stations. I would get one of each from the Esso station, and then head over to the Sunoco station and finish off my collection by visiting the Shell and the Texaco stations. By the time Mobil came to town they were no longer giving maps away for free.

Maps were great to hang on a wall. With the colorful wiggly road lines one could almost see them as Jackson Pollock creations.

Maps were also great to visualize where you were in relation to other places. My favorite use for maps was for covering school books with them. In my school we were given our school books and we were expected to cover them to protect them so future generations of children could use them. Maps were great for this purpose since they were large sheets of paper, and they contained all sorts of useful information on them. They also went a long way to help one through a boring section of class. One could pick a spot on the map and develop a fantasy about what it would be like to go there instead of going over those damn times tables again.

I still have some maps and an atlas or two, but I sadly admit that I use the internet for map services more often than I consult paper maps. I had a GPS device for about a week and I hated it and sold it on ebay.

I wonder if future generations will lose the skill of using a map just as many of us don’t possess the skill to use a sexton. Worse yet, I fear that future generations will also lose the skill to fold up maps for storage. We may be totally doomed when the power goes out.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep...I'm with you on that one. Got a map from the forestry people and went on a compass march through thick woods to find a secluded lake. Cool maps cause they have elevation and wilderness. Turned out the lake was a swamp...slept in a leanto...rained all very wet. Will never forget the taste of lobster paste sandwiches washed down with swamp water tea. And the look on my sleeping buddy's face in the morning as this huge unknown bug was crawling on his nose. Twitch twitch...lower lip protuded and blowing....


5:42 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

I love maps too. I can spend hours just poring over maps of different places, though I like maps of cities better than wilderness.

But I think familiarity with maps is not nearly so universal, even now. When I lived in Hong Kong I was disconcerted to discover that many cabbies had no idea how to read a map. If you couldn't explain how to get where you wanted to go (sometimes hard with my poor Cantonese and the frequent lack of a direct relationship between the English and Cantonese names for streets and other places), showing them the location in the city atlas was only useful if they happend to recognize the place from the Chinese name written on the map. I once got taken to the wrong hospital, halfway across the island from where I wanted to go, because the cabbie mis-read one of the characters on the map that I showed him -- the location was clear to me just from the map (you could see the harbor and other major landmarks on it), but he had no idea what it represented and just went by what he thought he read. I know it was a mistake (not just a scam to drive up the meter), because he actually refused to accept payment for more than the last leg of the trip when he finally got where I wanted to go...

6:43 AM  
Blogger Auntie said...

I too, am a map geek. And an excellent navigator. Just don't let me do the driving, right Guy?

6:55 AM  
Blogger weese said...

I love maps too.
When our kids turned 16 they were each given a great big book of maps for our area - should they ever need to find a new place or get home from some unknown place.
My son... never even opened the thing. He's got one of those 'navigators' now. Its a wonder he can find his way home from the store.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I must admit I have never possessed the skill to fold up maps properly. But I do like them!

10:48 AM  
Blogger Mike S said...

Being a dinosaur, I naturally have and use a huge collection of maps. I also had a 'nice' GPS unit that I sold because it insisted my house was in the center of the river at the foot of our hill:)

11:45 AM  
Blogger Crowbar said...

I'm left wondering what kind of skill is required to use a "Sexton" and what he might have to do with cartography or orienteering?


4:18 PM  
Blogger Jaggy said...

I studied cartography and map use in college (almost got my GIS certificate), own an Oregon Gazetteer with both TRS grids, GPS markings, and points of interest, AND I use maps every day at work.

I'm a geocacher. Maps are pretty much my life. :)

And I make maps, too!

But don't ask me to use a compass... dead reckoning is easier for some reason.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

Eldest takes a great deal of map reading in her home school curriculum. They've sent pretty extensive books for the last two years. One entire large wall of their room is taken up by a framed map of Oregon. We have put tacks in everyplace we've been to. The boy has an old, pre USSR-breakup map on his wall. We love 'em.

11:35 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Yeah, Moose, I've been mislead by maps before, even by Google maps.

Good story, Frank. Now that I'm thinking of it I've never seen a Chinese map.

Auntie, you need a golf cart.

Weese, it's always strange to meet someone who is directionally challenged. Funnier yet are those who deny they are.

Beth, in that case, roll them up.

Mike, the problem with mine was I could gain 60 feet in elevation within five feet in my driveway. Also the trails where I take my horses are too wooded to use GPS on.

Crowbar, Sextons are pretty easy to use if you have some math skills.

Jaggy, I was better with dead reckoning back East. The geology isn't right for it here.

The boy meaning SH? Your son would be too young to appreciate that sort of map. Interesting you've renamed him "The Boy."

6:03 AM  
Blogger Crowbar said...

Math skills for a sexton? Bell ringing maybe, but math skills???

1:55 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

How does an employee of the church (sexton) help you with finding your way in the woods? Are they the ones operating the sextant?

2:12 PM  
Blogger Crowbar said...

Thanks Rich. I think Guy is asleep at the keyboard.


4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nah...he's not asleep. It's the Zen thing. An esoteric moralist in search of a categorical imperative for which there is no map or no bells - just the sound of steady drumming and a low murmuring chant...


5:01 AM  

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