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Alan Cook

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Books by Alan Cook
Giving Directions
By Alan Cook
Last edited: Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2011

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Alan Cook

• Grief: Why Writers Get it Wrong
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           >> View all 67
I am the author of "Walking the World: Memories and Adventures."
As a walker, I've often been asked to give directions to motorists. Sometimes I even get them right.


           I haven’t been asked for directions recently while on my daily walks. Perhaps everyone has a GPS these days and nobody needs my help anymore. That’s a shame because I’ve always enjoyed telling people where to go.
            People seeking help aren’t always in cars. I encountered one woman while walking in a tony  neighborhood. She was on foot, also, but was dressed more for a semi-formal night out and even wore high heels. Her question to me was, “How do I get to civilization?”
            Not knowing we had left civilization behind, it took me a few seconds to understand her question, until I realized she meant someplace where there were stores and people rather than large houses with tennis courts behind fences but no visible humans. I tried to tactfully suggest that a downhill trek of several miles was beyond the capabilities of her footwear, and left her still discontented with her lot.
            There must be something to this “civilization” business, because another couple in the same area asked me how to get back to civilization. They had a car, but when I tried to tell them the direct route down the hill I live on (Palos Verdes Peninsula near Los Angeles), they said they wanted to see the Pacific Ocean first. That increased the complexity factor by several orders of magnitude. Not wanting to bombard them with instructions they wouldn’t remember, I got them started and hoped they would find somebody else to finish directing them.
           One more anecdote about the high-priced district. A man said he was trying to find a street called “Via something or other.” I pointed out that all the streets in the area were named Via something or other. Using non-English names increases the exclusiveness.
            Another man was looking for an address that just flat didn’t exist on the street where he was searching. A taxi driver even had a map, but he was several miles and several hundred vertical feet from where he wanted to be. Hopefully, he now uses a GPS. A young couple stopped and asked for directions. I couldn’t hear the driver, who was on the other side of the car, so I poked my head in the passenger window and got an eyeful of the cleavage of his pretty companion. I swear that was unintentional.
I have been asked for directions in many places. While on a visit to my parents’ farm near Buffalo, NY where I lived during my high school years, I was walking when a driver stopped and asked me how to get to Strickler Road. I confidently told him which way to go. He drove off and I soon realized I had pointed him in the opposite direction from where he should have gone. I feared he would return to give me the full benefit of his wrath until I turned onto another road.
In Old Saybrook, Connecticut, where I was visiting my mother-in-law, a truck driver stopped to ask me for help. I whipped out a map of the area and pointed out his destination to him. He was greatly impressed by my preparedness. Of course, I had been using the map to keep myself from getting lost.
I was able to shine during a trip to Ireland. On my first morning in the emerald isle I awoke early, not yet accustomed to the time change, and strolled down to the harbor at Wexford, a sleepy village whose population was once decimated by Oliver Cromwell, in the days before they had automobiles.
A car stopped beside me just after dawn and a man asked me the way to the railroad station. My family and I had arrived by bus from the ferry terminal the evening before, and I knew that the railroad station and the bus station were at the same place. They weren't more than half a mile from where the driver and I were, but that didn't reduce my pride at being able to give a local resident precise instructions on how to get there.
            In The Hague, Netherlands, I learned how to ride the tram system. Twice I was asked for directions in Dutch by young Dutch girls, even though I was wearing white sneakers. Not wanting to drive them away, I asked them if they spoke English. Both of them did and I was able to help them with the complexities of the trams. I even rode on the same tram with one of them (we were headed to the same hotel) but she was not inclined to continue the conversation.
            If you see me walking, feel free to stop and ask directions. I’m always ready and willing to give them, right or wrong.



Web Site Alan Cook, Mystery and Walking Writer

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Reviewed by Janna Hill 8/22/2011
Enjoyable read. I finished with a grin.
Thank you.

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