After spending several weeks sailing around the islands of the West Indies, on October 28, 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the Island of Japan. When I say “West Indies” what I mean is the Bahamas and by “Japan,” I mean Cuba. Actually you might take issue with the word “discovered,” too, since there were already quite a few people living there.
So despite the fact that Columbus was something of a navigational superhero, he had a few things mixed up. Although you’ve probably heard rumors to the contrary, Columbus was most likely pretty sure the world was spherical because most educated people since Aristotle had at least that much figured out. Where he went wrong, however, was in his drastic underestimation of the earth’s circumference. The circumference had, in fact, been fairly accurately calculated as early as the 3rd century BC.
But Columbus wisely rejected these older calculations (which were based on such unreliable techniques as stellar observation and basic trigonometry), and in his own words, “did not make use of intelligence, mathematics, or maps.” And it turned out to be a good call, because had he not headed west in search of a better trade route to the East, he never would have been the first European to discover America (which he totally was as long as you don’t count Leif Ericson) and two of the earth’s seven continents wouldn’t be named in his honor (which they’re not because of his lifelong refusal to admit he had reached an entirely new land mass, even in the face of mounting evidence).
So it’s easy to poke a little fun at the just-a-little-off accomplishments of Christopher Columbus, but if I am really honest with myself, I kind of relate to the guy. You see, I am what you might call (if you’re being exceptionally kind) a little directionally challenged. If you’re taking a road trip, I am not the one you want holding the map. In fact, you probably shouldn’t let me drive much either if there’s any chance you might fall asleep because if you do, we’ll end up in Oklahoma (assuming that’s not where we’re planning to go).
As you can no doubt imagine, this can be a little bit of a problem when moving to a new community, which my family and I have recently done. Yes, there is technology out there to help people like me and I do have a Garmin in my car. It’s helpful, sort of. The trouble is that we lived in Oregon’s Central Willamette Valley for almost three years and I found that, surrounded by mountains on two sides and a nearby north/south running interstate, I never really needed it that much. For the first time in my life I had a little bit of clarity with regard to direction. I kind of felt like a navigational superhero.
Alas, the Midwest is my kryptonite and the Garmin’s maps were last updated like three Interstates ago, meaning that most of the time she (because her name is “Miss Nuvi”) doesn’t know where I am any better than I do. I keep meaning to get the update, but honestly my boys and I really enjoy it when Miss Nuvi recalculates. And when she tells us to take a U-turn because she thinks we’ve driven into a lake, the giggles that result are well worth some occasional disorientation. For now, I am on my own.
I haven’t done as badly as I feared I would. I have almost always found a way to get where I am going. That was until this past Monday. My youngest has been taking swimming lessons for quite a while now (and not to brag or anything, but we’re coming for you, Michael Phelps). When we moved, I figured out pretty quickly where we could find the nearest YMCA and got him signed up. I found it okay, just a quick hop down an Interstate and then a couple of turns on some fairly straight-forward highways. That worked great for a couple of weeks.
Then on Monday we were running late. It happened that my husband had recently attended a meeting near the YMCA and had casually mentioned that he’d taken a different route that he thought saved him a little time. Navigational superhero that I still think I am, I decided to try it.
Fifteen minutes after swimming lessons started (without my future Olympian), I asked Miss Nuvi to show us the way home, which, thankfully, she was able to do. To my dismay my husband was home from work already when the boys and I walked in long before we were due to arrive. He took one look at my dejected expression and gave me a hug because he realizes that there will be plenty of time to make fun of me later.
But just like Christopher Columbus’s so-called discovery of America, there is a bright side to my story. Because I was bold enough to try a new route that didn’t pan out quite as I had hoped, we had a little more time that evening than we otherwise would have. What we did with that time (because obviously I was way too upset to cook dinner) was try out a local pizza place that I was clever enough to “discover.” A couple of slices of buffalo chicken pizza later, I was pretty sure I had ended up exactly where I’d meant to all along.