I Need A Compass


Directions aren’t easy.  I should know, I am constantly finding myself lost on the highway systems of North America and especially in the endless exurbs of the Orlando area.  However, I’ve never invested in a GPS system.  My inner independent streak just doesn’t jive well with a smooth-voiced woman directing me in how to run my life (even if she is taking me to some offbeat location for a sushi bar). 

I do, however, possess a solid grounding in the concepts of the cardinal directions on Earth.  North, South, East, West.  You wouldn’t think they could yield endless frustration for those attempting to follow a map or to think about the layout of landscapes across a three-dimensional frame such as our gorgeous little blue planet.  But apparently, reading maps is not an easy thing. 

I discovered this key misconception in a rather hilarious moment:

Me:  “So polar bears are very large and efficient predators.  They sleep sixteen hours a day to conserve energy!  But does anyone want to guess how many penguins a polar bear can eat each day?”

Crowd:  “Thirteen!  Eighteen!  Five!  One-hundred and sixty-two!”

Me: “Good guesses all of them, but it was a trick question!  Polar bears and penguins never naturally interact in the wild!  Why?  Polar bears live at the North pole and penguins live on the opposite end of Earth.. in the Southern hemisphere.”

Little Girl:  “They only live at the North pole?”

Me:  “Yep.  So polar bears have to snack on animals found in the North pole, like some kinds of seals.”

Little Girl:  “I know where the North pole is!”  (As she points towards the sky.)

Me:  “So up in the sky is where the North Pole is at?  Are you sure?”

Little Girl:  “Yes!”

Mom and Dad:   “Yep, that’s right.  Up is North for the North pole.” 

Me (with an incredulous look on my face):  “Uhhhhhhhh. Alright. Well if up in the sky is North what direction is it if I point to my feet?”

Little Girl (with absolute certainty):  “Oh that’s the direction to Hell.”

I’d love to report that I gracefully corrected this family without a snicker but the child’s answer caught me so off guard that I burst out with a belly laugh.  After a few moments of “oh!” and “aa-haa!” I got the trio of them straightened out with cartography and geography and sent them on their merry way to enjoy the polar critters. 

Kids, I just love their honesty.