Hand Map Narrative

From here to there, from there to here

Directions 1Directions 2

A verbal map taken as dictation over the phone is full of visual cues from this place to that and is no less fascinating than a tangible map or one on a mobile phone that charts a territory with scale miles, highways, secondary roads.

A verbal map charts the brain, a brain that doesn’t know East from West, a brain that forms an “L’ out of thumb and forefinger to tell left from right, that can’t calculate distance, that panics when disoriented. Ultimately, it’s a map of how we perceive orientation and geography. Or how we don’t.

We came up with just this kind of map when Ann D’Antonio sought help from Dylan Hoey to plan a trip from Wassenaar, The Netherlands, to Leidschenveen, about 20 kilometers away. Help came in a phone call at the eleventh hour, when D’Antonio realized she had no idea how to get there the next morning. She couldn’t afford a wrong turn. She had to be on time for an early audition. Her accompanist would be driving there with her.

Thanks to Hoey’s verbal directions and visual cues— left at the Shell station, right at the McDonald’s— she made the audition on time. Being a woman she needed them like a life buoy. Study after study shows that the preponderance of women get around best with a picture narrative in their brains. Navigating by the heavens, a paper map, a globe, or 1s and 0s seems to suit y chromosome holders better. Hoey, a man who has no trouble looking at the sun to determine exactly where he is day or night, understood that D’Antonio’s brain is geographically damaged.

Reversing directions in The Netherlands, however, is seldom the way home. Something about secondary roads not leading directly to the highway and roundabouts having confusing markers conspired to make D’Antonio miss her turn on a road she has traveled for 14 years. The U-Turn sign in the far distance, though merciful, wasn’t salvation enough. The 6-kilometer detour it called for meant that her accompanist, who woke up extra-early that morning, arrived 15 minutes late to his own rehearsal.

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