Thursday, October 27, 2016

Love Affair with Maps

Carolyn J. Rose

Recently my neighbors helped me sell my car—a process that, thanks to technology, took about 10 minutes. Surprised by how quickly we had a buyer on the way, I scurried around, cleaning out the glove box and trunk. They pitched in to help and, as they used to say about 1950s sitcoms, hilarity ensued.

First, they gawked and guffawed over the manila file folder that contained documents for every time the car was serviced. Then they chuckled and nudged each other at the sight of the little notebook where I’d recorded each fill-up (complete with cost, mileage since the last time I hit a gas station, and total mileage) since the date of purchase.

Refusing to be embarrassed by their reaction to my level of obsessive organization, I moved on to the door pockets and a collection of maps. Oregon. Washington. California. Assorted cities in each state.

“Maps!” my neighbors exclaimed, their voices carrying a mix of disbelief, amazement, and pity. “Who still uses maps?”

The short answer is, “I do.”

I love the smell of a new map. I love the feel of a map. I love the crisp creases. I love unfolding it to get the big picture of where I’m going. I love tracing the route ahead and the miles behind. I even love refolding (correctly, of course) when we’ve rolled off one map and on to the next one.

I like to see more than a screen with the route ahead. I like the color shadings, the blue of water, the green of forest, the red and gray of roads, the many little markers for airports and highways and parks and campgrounds. I like to check out the names of cities and towns and wonder how they came to be.

Sure, maps have their drawbacks. When they get old, they fray in the creases. And then they often rip. An ink blot or coffee spill can wipe out key landmarks. Sometimes I have to add up incremental mileage postings to get the total for a long journey. They don’t update automatically when roads are closed or built. They can’t tell me where I am if I can’t find a key landmark or signpost.

But I can forgive all that because of their beautiful complexity. And because they’re works of art.

Someday I may get a GPS, but no way will I ever throw away my maps.

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