I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for forty years. Not that this had made me an expert, but every now and then I feel a little sheepish about what I don’t know.
On Christmas Day YA and I drove to Hudson to have dinner with friends. These friends just moved to Hudson in June, so this was the first time we would visit them in their new home. I let YA put the address into my phone’s GPS. YA has been on a campaign to change my GPS of choice from Google Maps to some other direction-finder. She is convinced that my difficulties with Google will be solved with this new app (I am constantly confused when Google changes the perspective while I’m driving; oftentimes I think I have more time before a turn and then suddenly Google zooms in and I’m either missing the turn or swerving quickly to make it.)
The fact of using GPS is a little frustrating to me. As a teenager, driving all over the suburbs of St. Louis, I don’t ever remember getting lost or turned around; I certainly didn’t have a city map that I consulted. I’ve thought about this a lot over the years as I’m pretty sure my penchant for getting turned around is getting worse as time goes by. And what I’ve come to is that GPS is what’s making it worse. Prior to the internet and GPS, if you went to a friend’s new house, you’d call them up and ask for directions. You’d usually get a mix of “go two miles, then turn left at the Shell station, then go four blocks and turn left on Discovery Street, we’re the fifth house in on the left, white with green trim.” This seems highly sensible to me. Now I just turn when I’m told; I’m not keeping track of how many miles or blocks I’m going and not paying attention to what’s on the corner when I’m turning.
Anyway, the new app that YA likes shows where there are traffic signals along the way. It also shows some landmarks (although not helpful in terms of where to turn). As we were driving over the 94 bridge toward St. Paul, I noticed the GPS noting “The Witches Hat Water Tower”. I looked up and there it was – as clear as day over the trees – and definitely living up to its name. The water tower, which sits in Prospect Park, was built in 1913, designed by Norwegian-born architect Frederick William Cappelen.
I used to work in St. Paul so I used to drive over the 94 bridge 10 times a week, not to mention all the other times I’ve driven that direction over the decades. I have not once noticed that there is a water tower that looks like a witch’s hat. Not once. I’m thinking that maybe I should keep using the app that YA prefers – who knows what else I’ll find!
Once you’ve driven someplace, do you remember how to get there the next time?