Do I Have A Sign Above My Head?

For some reason no matter where I go people seem to think I know things. These are not things I should know, nor are they things people for any reason should have reasonable cause to think I should know.

I can't recall how many times I've been asked in a store where something is. Usually I shrug and say I don't work there, whether I know where it is or not. Yeah, I'm a jerk that way. If I'm feeling frisky I'll tell them to ask an actual employee.

This has actually happened more than once at Target, so now make sure if Target is on the scheduled stop list for shopping I don't wear a red shirt, even though red is a common color in my closet. Yeah, I know - how many other people decide what they are going to wear based on if they are going to Target? I try not to wear blue at Best Buy either, though I have nothing in royal blue like their employees wear. Perhaps the guy who asked me where something was while I was wearing midnight blue at Best Buy simply can't tell shades of blue - I have no idea.

It drives me insane though. And nothing is worse than when people in cars ask me for directions. This happens to me almost every time I am walking in downtown Portland. I have no idea why - it's like there is a neon side over my head that says "GET YOUR DRIVING DIRECTIONS HERE!!!" with an arrow pointed at me, and everyone can see it but yours truly. And they take advantage.

Maybe I would feel differently if I could actually give directions, but it's not a strong suit of mine. If I'm driving I usually know where the roads are, either by experience or Google's driving directions. Even the roads I drive every day I couldn't give people directions on because I don't know their names; I just know where they go. I've lived in the same house for seven years and still couldn't tell you the names of the roads around my house I drive on at least twice a day.

The most common question I get asked is how to get to the freeway, to I-5 or I-405. There are only a couple ways to do it, and most of it depends on multiple turns to get going the right direction - there is nothing straightforward unless the person happens to already be on the right road facing the right way.

And, of course, they never are.

So I usually beg out of it. I've used "I'm new here too" even though I've lived in Portland my whole life. Or I just look perplexed, and they say thanks anyway and leave. Or I look around a little lost and say "I'm not quite sure from here..."

One time I was down near the waterfront, walking on my lunch break in an area I never drive, when this guy in a SUV pulled up next to me and wanted to know how to get from I-5. I actually knew and tried to explain it to him this time, but not knowing the names of the roads to give him - "go up to the light, turn right, then a left, go straight through the next light, left again, and you're good" - I think I just confused him. Watching as he drove off I know he didn't take my advice. Oh well, whatever.

I'm not a map, I don't feel any guilt about this. You can't expect much when you ask pointed questions of a random stranger on the street who just happens to be in the same place as you - there should be no legitimate expectation of a good answer, because really, the odds are seriously against you.

I have joked with Wifey about intentionally giving out the wrong directions, but I'm not rude enough to actually do that - just joke about it.

Still, I do occasionally feel bad.

A week or so ago I was just getting out of work and waiting to cross the street to go to my car when this young couple walked up to me and asked for help. I'm attentive - I'll listen to what you need. They were positively bubbly about the city and were from out of town. They didn't say where from, but my guess would be somewhere smaller than Portland. Significantly. They seemed nice and wanted to know where the college of naturopathic medicine was.

Hey, I knew this one! It was right down the street! So I proceeded to tell them to go to the light, turn left, and walk down about 3-4 blocks, it would be on their right. They thanked me effusively, walked off, and I headed to my car, which is about a two block walk the other direction.

As I'm walking it dawned on me they were talking about a school, not a clinic. The school - actually called the National College of Natural Medicine - is the other direction and further away. Plus, it's also very difficult to describe how to get there because you have to go on a pedestrian bridge over one of the major throughfares exiting the downtown area.

Now I felt bad, knowing I had given them bad info that would probably leave them with a bad taste in their mouth and they'd never find the place anyway. And they seemed so nice! I briefly thought about turning around, but they were already long gone. After I got to my car I thought about it again, but I never saw them again.

So, dear people from wherever you are from, I apologize. If you care, here is a map to where you wanted to go.

See what I get for helping? Next time I'll act like I've never heard of it.

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