Less than perfect navigation skills

OK, I’ve been lost, you’ve been lost, all Og’s chillens been lost at one time or another. You’d think, however, in this wondrous day of things like GPS systems and on-line direction-finding services that, should someone inadvertently lose their way on a journey, these fine, easy-to-use tools will gently guide them back to the correct path with a minimum of fuss.

Apparently, you’d think wrong.

Case #1: Just got off the phone with my sister, who, with my brother, today set out from Johnstown, PA to attend the funeral of a relative in Tiltonsville, OH, a little town on the Ohio River just north of Wheeling. Both had been to Tiltonsville several times before, though admittedly not for several years. It’s a fairly straight shot, with only a couple of turns to make en route, but as a precaution, they printed out a set of directions from Mapquest. The directions were accurate; for some reason, however, they neglected to note the part near Greensburg, PA, where you get on I-70 West. Instead, they got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) West. Despite taking a toll road rather than a freeway, despite crossing directly from PA to Ohio rather than through a small slice of West Virginia, despite there being no sign of a large river or a Wheeling of any type, they forged on until reaching the outskirts of Akron, at which point they decided they might have taken a wrong turn somewhere. Unfortunately, being roughly a hundred miles northwest of their intended target, and with no direct route there, they had no choice but to turn around and go back home. Oh yeah, and down about 80 bucks for fuel.

Case #2: a while back one of our employees was given instructions to drive from Houston to the PHI heliport in Galveston, a roughly fifty-mile trip. He had a GPS, so he punched in the name of the helicopter operator, it programmed a precise set of turn-by-turn directions that he followed to the letter, and several hours later, he successfully fetched up at the PHI heliport…in Lafayette, Louisiana.

So, anybody else got any tales of Wrong-Way Corrigan levels of misdirection?

There’s at least two news stories of people who have followed their GPS directions up train tracks and subsequently got hit by a train. Here and here. I’d say they put a bit too much faith in their GPS.

#1 My friend’s sister and her friend went from Cleveland to Detroit to go to a casino. On the way home they had driven long enough to be back to Cleveland, suddenly looked around, and realized they had gone north on the highway instead of south and they were in northern Michigan.

#2 We were having the 50th anniversary party for my in-laws in the third suburb west of Cleveland. Some people from my f-i-l’s work came north on the highway, then went east instead of west. They never found our town and finally just went home.

#3 My daughter was recently half an hour late to a doctor’s appointment. The doctor’s office is 20 minutes away. She just got horribly lost, even though the directions are turn right, turn left, turn right, turn left. And she had driven herself there several times before. She went there today and I wrote out the directions. She’s 20.

#4 My friend’s sister-in-law was heading from Cleveland to Pittsburgh to go to IKEA. But instead of getting on the Ohio Turnpike they got on I-90. They made it to Erie before realizing they were on the wrong highway.

#5 Once I thought I was heading west towards Cleveland but I was actually heading east. After awhile I started to realize that I should be seeing more civilization. I should in fact be seeing the downgown Cleveland skyline. The signs said I-90 east, but it still felt like I was going west. I had to force myself to turn around.

There was some speculation by the local media in San Francisco that James Kim’s death was partially attributable to directions from Google Maps. Other people think that speculation doesn’t really hold up, and point to a host of contributing factors, including media aircraft interfering with aerial searches.

People trusting their devices so much that they end up in a different state is a clear sign that they didn’t do a “sanity check.” As more than one science teacher admonished us, you need to check your information to see if it makes sense in the context of what you’re doing. That’s one of the reasons you need to at least halfway understand the concepts of what you’re trying to do when using artificial aids.

Engineers and people who have been in the military have probably the most pessimistic attitude toward technology that I’ve encountered. The guys doing the motorcycle training I took had both been in the military, and it showed. After telling us that the green light, which most of our motorcycles had on the console, was supposed to indicate that the transmission was in neutral and it was therefore safe to release the clutch, one of the instructors asked, “What does it mean when the green light is lit up?”

One of the students: “That the transmission is in neutral.”

Instructor: "Nope, it means the green light works.

“Never completely trust any equipment when there’s a possibility you could get hurt or killed from doing so. Even when the green light shows you should be cautious in releasing the clutch and be prepared for the transmission to engage with the engine, just in case.”

I don’t get lost. I occasionally go on unplanned adventures.

Speak for yourself only, please. I have a little thing called a sense of direction. I always know at least the general direction to where I’m going and can zero in once I get close. No matter how far off the beaten path I get I know how to get back to familiar territory. I make up short-cuts that either come out right where I expected or real close.

My wife, of course, can’t seem to understand the difference between her not knowing exactly where we are and us being lost. The closest I’ve ever been to being lost has been when I gave-in to my wife’s insistence that we pull over and ask for directions. (The guy on the sidewalk she always wants to talk to can’t help us with driving directions–he’s what’s called a “pedestrian”.)

I try to always have a map of the area with me. I can and have used Mapquest. I have a Magellan GPS (it’s great for finding a Starbucks en route). I don’t trust any of them if my internal compass disagrees.

I was on a business trip a few weeks ago. I had my laptop and GPS along for navigation help.
I was supposed to take a right onto a highway, but I was zoomed out too far, and I must have turned 100 feet too soon, onto a really back road. I had plenty of time, so I just watched the GPS and enjoyed the scenery, and got back onto the main road after 20 miles or so.

Sometimes actual directions are more useful than a GPS and a map…

The funeral home we used for Dad is on Big Village Road, Our Town where Big Village happens to be in another province, about half an hour from Our Town.

A cousin of Dad’s from the City went to Big Village, instead of following the signs to Our Town.

After that, we called up those relatives from the City who hadn’t come to the wake but were coming to the funeral and made sure they knew it was going to be held at the Capuchinos in Our Town and not at the ones in the City. Good thing too, as we found three who were assuming the funeral would be at the ones in the City just because, you know, everything happens in the City, doesn’t it? I mean, why would anybody have their funeral in their home parish at Our Town rather than at a church they’d never visited in the nearby City?

Back when my father was in university, he and several friends were driving from Wisconsin to California. They were taking turns over a week or so making a road trip of it. One morning, my father and the others were asleep in the car while the driver was the only one awake. They had left about 6am and around 9am my father woke up and asked why they were driving into the sun. Oops.

They’d been driving east for 3 hours. :smack:

Not really a case of getting lost, but rather overdependence on the GPS . . .

We were driving to a local restaurant with some visiting friends who had recently gotten a new GPS and of course were totally in love with it. The GPS was unnecessary because we (the locals) knew where the restaurant was, and it was easy to spot, being all by itself on the side of a rural highway. But A, the driver, insisted on punching it into the GPS. He was so busy watching the little screen that he all but ignored our shouts of “Slow down! Here it is! There’s the sign! It’s right there on the left!” and we very nearly missed the driveway because the GPS said we weren’t there yet. :rolleyes:

Geez, trying looking out the windshield at your actual surroundings, huh?

My dad always called it “taking the scenic route.”

I’ve got a fantastically strong sense of direction. It’s like a big, red arrow in my head, so present and massive I can almost touch it. It points the way in an undoubting fashion, never swaying, never wavering.
It’s also, usually, completely and utterly wrong. Except, of course, when I expect it to be.
As a result, I can get lost anywhere and everywhere, on well-known routes because of mistrusting the big red arrow, and on unknown ones because of trusting it. I think I might well just up and disappear one day, probably going out to get the proverbial cigarettes, and never finding back, giving rise to urban legends about a hairy wild man living in the surrounding woods. People will take plaster casts of my footprints, and analyse hair and other samples. A part of me is looking forward to it.

I also can get lost in paragraphs of my own writing, which might explain why this post has no point whatsoever.

This happened to some clients of ours, but I imagine it’s fairly common. Coming north from the Mass Pike on I-95/128, the exit numbers count up. Until 128 splits off from I-95 at exit 45, then the exit numbers start counting down. So more than one person has seen “Take exit 16 from 128”, looked at the exits counting up from the mid-30’s to the mid-40’s, thought “This can’t be right.”, turned south and headed for Cape Cod.

Even more questionable design decisions on the Mass Pike. If you’re coming from the west and miss exit 2 for Stockbridge, you’re screwed. The next exit is 30 miles down the Pike. Happened to me once on a college road trip.

I have a pretty good sense of direction, but no trip is complete without at least one wrong turn, whether I’m using a map, a GPS, someone in the passenger seat telling me where to turn. My kids have learned to accept and enjoy our little adventures trying to get back on the right road!


Except for the time I was trying to find Mare Island, near San Francisco, less than a year after the earthquake and a bunch of bridges were still out. I think it took me longer to get from the southern suburbs to my destination than it did to drive up from San Diego.

Didn’t know where we were for a few days while paddling down a remote river. It got interesting when the river ended in a marsh with no obvious exit. http://my.tbaytel.net/culpeper/WalkWalkWakwayowkastic.html

There’s lost, and then there’s LOST. I spend a lot of time wandering about in the wilderness by canoe and on foot. Not knowing where I am is no big deal – as long as I have a general idea of which way to travel to a baseline, and enough water and appropriate clothing, then it really doesn’t matter that I am lost. Being entirely disoriented and without an ability to find my way to a baseline, however, is LOST, and is not something that I would care to experience.

I forgot to add last night that sometimes, I go adventuring on purpose. I flip a coin at intersections and go where the coin tells me to. (I haven’t done this in a long time because of gas prices). I figure as long as I have a road, I can find my way back home. I drive down roads I’ve never been on before to see where they go. For me it’s fun, and I find things I otherwise wouldn’t have.

My husband doesn’t want me to get a GPS because he thinks if it says “turn right” I will turn right immediately, even if there is no road. Like Michael does on “The Office.” He turned right into a pond.

I am not that stupid. Really.

A couple of weeks ago I was in the car with my husband and his parents. The f-i-l decides to use the GPS in the town where they used to live for 10 years. Well, some roads might have been new. Then he starts to get on the turnpike. Okay. Then the GPS is saying “merge” and whatnot. I finally had to yell, “YOU KNOW YOUR WAY HOME FROM HERE, RIGHT???” And then he turned it off.

He also needs a hearing aid. We twice had to tell him to turn off the blinker and he said he couldn’t hear it over the radio. Okay, but everyone else in the car heard it.

Well, I do too, that’s my point. Even if I don’t have turn-by-turn directions, I can usually get within a few miles of a target location as long as I know what compass direction I need to follow. If you have a clear idea as to what North, South, East and West represent, it will be much harder to get well and truly lost. Apparently my sister and brother don’t quite have that sorted out.

Years back, late 80’s, my wife and I were returning to St. Louis from Florida and approached Atlanta GA on I-75. It was about 3 in the afternoon during the late Spring. We made the turn from I-75 to I-285 an the Southern bypass, but for some reason instead for following I-285 around to the North and connecting with I-75 on the North side of Atlanta, I turned onto I-85 South. It took about 15 minutes before I realized that there shouldn’t be any sun shining in the drivers window. :smack:

I got off at the next exit and reversed course, but was feeling pretty stupid at the time.