Direction or Distance

I have an amazing sense of direction. I can get out of mazes with ease, navigate my way through the Tokyo subway system, and I can even pin the tail on the donkey if I’m not spun around too much. My sense of distance however  is all but absent.

My friends had invited me round to join them for dinner and I planned to arrive a few hours early to help them cook. I’d visited only once before but I knew the way from the university. The sports centre I left was on the opposite side of their house, but no further away so rather than walk to the university to retrace my footing, I decided I could find my own way. The fog descended just after I made this terrible decision.Sheffield is not the largest of cities, nor the densest, so when heavy fog masked every street sign for miles I was undeterred at first. Up this road and then a right. Simple. Second or third right. If I missed it, I could always circle around. It should have taken 20 minutes to walk up the steep Crookesmoor streets to their house. I left at 2pm.

One hour later and I know I’m in trouble. I could barely see a foot in front of my face, making it next to impossible to recognise my surroundings. If not for the weather then I suspect I would have made it in good time. I took the right and walked for another 30 minutes until I knew I had made the wrong turning. I circled round to the next street up the hill and headed back in the opposite direction. The same result. Had I gone too far or not far enough? When in doubt, always over compensate; it never fails.

I carried on further up the hill until the buzz of traffic dimmed and took another right. This time I didn’t stop walking, being convinced that this was the right direction. After another hour, I decided to check my bearings. Aimlessly wandering in the fog for over 2 hours can make you a little suspicious that you might have lost your way. I headed up to the peak of the hill, knowing that I would be able to see all of Sheffield from the top. That’s really easy in the fog, I know, but there is a specific landmark I had in mind. The Arts Tower rose high above the horizon and was always lit up like a Christmas tree at night, and it had already gotten dark by the time I made it to the top. I peered into the fog for my beacon, my hope of finding my way back to familiar roads. I saw nothing. Now, it’s entirely possible that the entire Arts tower had been knocked down, sucked into a black hole or had taken a sudden sabbatical. It might have been that this was the heaviest fog Sheffield had ever had the pleasure of hosting. But it wasn’t because I’d gotten too far. That couldn’t be it.

At 7pm I called Amber for some google map support. Over the phone I heard the rest of them retort in confusion as she explained my predicament.

“Should we come out and try to find you?” she asked.

“No, no. One lost child is enough”

“Find a landmark or street name and we’ll find you on google”

“Oh, I past an Asda supermarket just an hour ago”.

The silence over the phone was deafening.

“…There’s an Asda in Sheffield!?”

As the Colombus of Sheffield, finding supermarkets appears to be my claim to fame. Fortunately, I hadn’t quite left the city as everyone had thought but I was well on my way to Huddrsfield. With their pained instructions, I got to the Sheffield football stadium and from there, I had a nice busy main road to follow happily back to the city centre where they came to meet me. As I later proved to my non-believer friends, my direction had been flawless; I simply passed their house in the fog by mistake and just carried on going.

I got to their house at 9pm, just in time for cold leftovers.


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