Landmark case

Have you noticed that when you get to know a place really well you have a whole collection of subconscious landmarks? Just little markers that check off in the back of your brain as you pass them. Usually you don’t even realise it until one of them changes, or you have to give directions to someone else. I discovered this for myself a few years back when directing friends to my family’s beach house. I told them the names of the roads and added that the key turn off was “just after the sign with the platypus on it” — the platypus being a landmark that a young, sleepy me always noticed after long family trips to get there. Well. When they finally arrived, my friends berated me for directing them via a non-existent platypus sign. It turns out that what I’d always thought was a large platypus, on closer inspection (or fresh eyes) was the (small) head of a platypus peeking over the top of some words. Whoops.

I learned to be a lot more careful with my directions after moving to a new town where people were always kindly trying to direct me to places. Unfortunately their instructions often included things like, “It’s the set of houses on the hill that used to be blue but they’re pink now” (they were orange), or “Just turn after where the post office used to be.” I used to beg them to just tell me the street address and then assure them I’d be able to find it on the map. Luckily my navigation skills are good. If you don’t have the institutional memory that comes from living somewhere a long time, you just don’t have those landmarks and there’s nothing anyone can do.

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