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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Direction Unclear

I lack direction.

Well, in addition to that, I mean I lack a sense of direction. I have been known to make four right turns and be utterly mystified that I came back to where I was. So negotiating a new place takes practice.

In New York, this is how I leave a subway or a building: I walk outside and strain to see the next street sign over. If I’m at 15th Street, and I can see 16th, I know that way is uptown. I am oriented! If I’m looking for an avenue, that’s harder because they’re longer and you can’t see the next one. So you look for the next street, aim yourself uptown, and then you know the avenues on your right and left. Unless you’re at Broadway, which runs diagonally. Or the avenues which suddenly give up numbers and become Madison, Park, and Lexington. Or Lexington, Madison, then Park? I scramble them every single time.

Invariably, I end up walking the wrong way and asking a stranger which way is Fifth.

Ah, but on the subway, I know my connections! I see a map in my head. That’s ON the subway. IN the subway station is a whole other story. Getting out of a station or transferring to another subway line within a station is a true challenge. Yes, after a while, you get the routine movements down, but a new station is always a new puzzle.

I couldn’t get from the F train to the 6 train until I found a man at an elevator with a little sign on it that said “To 6 platform.” When I got to the platform, other people were arriving, but I have no idea how they got there. I’ve looked and looked, but as far as I know, the elevator is the only way. But that can’t be true.

Some station arrows make it easy. Go up the stairs to the left or right.

But there are arrows that make it confusing. Does this mean you should turn around for the elevator? Or straight ahead and turn right? (Or jump up and down?)

Arrows combined with environmental cues (like stairs) are easier.

I think this one means “go around the big elevator box in the middle of the platform.” But that may explain why I could never find the 6 without the elevator.


Arrows without environmental cues are confusing. This next is the Big One, the source of much subway misdirection: Does this arrow mean up or straight ahead?
I have come across tourists looking for the stairs up where there are none. I have missed going up because I was aiming for straight ahead. The problem is the “up” and “straight ahead” arrows are identical. I propose a solution:

The longer ones mean “Go far ahead, into the distance.” They could even be grayed out as they stretch further ahead. What do you think? Will this work?

1 comment:

  1. Experienced this often in Japan's train stations and subway stations. We got lost in Kyoto Station and couldn't figure out where our exit was. Finally found an exit on the far side of the station and had to go back in and through the station again to get to our hotel.

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