I often think about the layout or position of a piece of furniture, a room, or a building in terms of its cardinal direction. For example, I figured out that when my girlfriend and I slept in our separate beds in our own houses 2 miles apart, we were (roughly) facing each other. The foot of my bed pointed south, the foot of hers north, and we were nearly on a north/south straight line with each other. This wasn’t done from Google Maps or anything like that, it was just the way my brain worked in those last fading moments before shutting down for sleep. Though it’s not true of this particular effort, I believe that those final moments are some of the most powerful our brain has on a daily basis.
I guess I’ve always been fascinated with maps, and the way things are oriented with respect to other things. I love playing golf for a hundred different reasons, but one of them is that you get to walk around an enormous stretch of ground in a supremely convoluted way, and often pass holes that seem like they should be on the other side of the course, based on the numbering.
At my home course, the greens of the 7th and 15th holes are separated by 30 feet and a cartpath. If you knew only this fact, and weren’t familiar with golf, you’d think the designer was insane. But when you walk the course, it makes perfect sense, so much so that you rarely even notice what holes you’re running alongside, even though you may have played them 2 hours previous. This same course used to have a sign that sat at a crucial junction where players playing the 8th and 13th holes both needed to walk through which had the names of famous golf courses around the world, the directions to those courses, and the number of yards to get there. I remember Pebble Beach and St. Andrews were both on there, and obviously their markers were pointing in nearly opposite directions as this course is near Boston, Massachusetts. The memory of this post will probably never leave me, even though it was only up for a few summers when I was a teenager and I saw it less than 40 times (as a guess).
Something about the fact that you can connect places that are so incredibly distant with nothing more than a directional indicator and a number is incredible to me. I imagine that the people who make these types of signposts (of which there are many) aren’t overly concerned about accuracy, and that’s almost more intriguing. Because, when you think about it, there’s nearly a zero percent chance that that one battered signpost on a municipal golf course in Scituate, Massachusetts could really have a sign that pointed directly at the heart of Pebble Beach Golf Links, a course that is (OK, now I’m using Google Maps) 3,227 miles away (and 47 hours away, in current traffic. Also, this route has tolls. Ya think, Google?). So if we imagine that the sign at my golf course has an invisible string arrowing in a directly straight line from the tip of the sign’s point off around the curve of the globe, what does it really point to? How far off latitudinally are we? Still in California? Still in the United States?
We’ll never know, because that sign has inexplicably been taken down. But it’s incredibly interesting (for me, at least) to ponder. And even though I spend hours poring over Google Maps, I don’t want to use it for something like this. I want to believe in the power of not knowing something. Maybe that sign really did point directly to the heart of Pebble Beach. Maybe the string stretched out and landed on something else awesome, like Dodger Stadium or John Elway’s old dorm at Stanford. And what did it pass over in the middle to get there? Who knows. That’s the beauty.
I think about this kind of thing sometimes when I’m in social situations. Lately, we’ve been gathering at a house in Hull where two of my good friends live. We’ll usually have a few people over and do the usual things: watch sports and movies, play video games and beer pong, you know the drill. But these are not our only friends. Three of our best friends have moved to various places (Maryland, New York, and Los Angeles). Then, of course, there are all the friends we’ve made in school. This is a variation, I suppose, on the thought that most people have of everyone looking up and seeing the same moon in the sky. I just think of it differently. Like, if I turn around on this couch and arrow my hand out in what I believe to be the direction of Los Angeles, am I pointing at one of my best friends? Can he feel that I’m thinking about him? When we’re playing beer pong, and I’m shooting (roughly) to the southwest, am I shooting at my friend’s apartment in Manhattan? If this ball could take off through the ceiling and travel across state lines, where would it land?
These are the things I think about.
Weird, aren’t they?
Good thing none of it matters, since Snapchat exists.