Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tourist Guide

I have spent almost the last decade of my life living in tourist-philic locations. There is something I've noticed over the years. Maybe other runners can relate to this, too?

Tourists love to ask runners for directions.

I guess there is something about someone out for a run which screams, "I live here! I know my way around! Stop me and ask me all your burning questions!"

I'm generally very happy to stop to help tourists out (If I'm in the middle of a tempo run I may blast past 'ya, though -- I don't think this has come up yet -- I once ignored someone calling to me from their car but more because I thought that could be dangerous). If I see someone holding a map looking puzzled I'll even stop and offer my help (Golden Gate Park is hella confusing).

I do my best to get the blood flowing to my brain as I stand there panting for air. I try really hard to give good help. But then after I've given directions and trot off, I spend the next few miles feeling utterly guilty. I replay what I told them in my head and always decide I could have been more specific, more clear, or more just plain right.

The worse I ever felt was in Central Park. Two men stopped me to ask for help. They had tickets to a taping of the Letterman Show and had to be there in 15 minutes. They were walking in the totally wrong direction and I seriously doubted they could make it there in time. But I gave them some advice and sent them on their way. A few minutes later I realized there was something different I could have said that would have been so much clearer. I felt SO bad as I pictured them lost in the jungles of Central Park missing their show. Guilt.

Lost in Central Park? Just flag me down.

Recently I was running in Golden Gate Park and two guys stopped to ask me, "How far to the Pacific?" "The Pacific Ocean?" "Yes, the Pacific Ocean?" I stopped and really thought about it. I know that from the westernmost point of the park to my house is 2 miles. I was probably a smidge under a mile to my house. I told them a little over a mile. They seemed content with this answer. I told them to just keep walking in the direction they were headed and they'd get there. We parted ways. I immediately regretted my advice. It was probably closer to 1.5 miles if you tag on the little leg out of the park to the beach. And that extra 0.3 miles will feel very far to them if they're walking. They'll probably lose hope. And it wasn't exactly straight. At one point they'd have to choose which way to exit the park. Guilt.

I've had two requests for this location in the past month and a half: Japanese Tea Garden. And yes, I can approximate in minutes how long it will take you to walk there. Though, I calculate it in running time in my head and add a few so I probably second guess that number as soon as you depart.

Tuesday a young man stopped me. "Is this Golden Gate Park?" "Golden Gate Park? Yes." "Where is the bridge?" "The GOLDEN GATE Bridge?" "Yes." "Umm, you aren't very close to it. It's probably two miles that way." "Where is the best place in the park to get a view of the bridge?" For the life of me I couldn't think of an easy one. I thought about sending him up that hill on Stow Lake but that is pretty complicated to explain plus I wasn't sure if you could even see the bridge. "I can't really think of a place you can see it from the park." He mentioned something about driving. He had a car parked nearby. So I proceeded to give him directions on how to drive to the actual bridge. "... once you get on that road just keep following it all the way to the bridge and get off at the last exit on the right before the toll booth." After he left I regretted the way I had described things. It is a pretty far drive to the bridge. He might think he went too far. I should have told him there is a tunnel to go through. Guilt.

Am I the only person this happens to? I always replay my advice and feel bad about it after. Maybe I am just bad at giving directions? Or maybe I am too hard on myself and too critical of my advice?


aron said...

i would HATE to give directions in GGP... that place is confusing!

this has happened to me a time or two but i also don't run in very touristy places, i more so get asked by other runners where things go.

don't feel guilty, you could give them NO advice at all :)

naomi said...

i think you're being too hard on yourself! having a map and/or gps is plenty enough! that being said, its a very neighborly thing you do! much better than i would!

rUntoNamAste said...

You are SO right, we are definitely running maps! If only they knew how directionally challenged I am. If I can help I will, but I usually point them to the nearest gas station to get better directions. I think you're being a bit hard on yourself. You were gracious enough to break the momentum of your workout to help them which counts for a lot.

Nicole said...

i am terrible at giving driections. i know my way around every where but never know the road names so sadly im no help! you do the best you can though right? and some directions are better than none at all :)

Hef's Mom said...

I don't run anymore, no time, ugh
:( but I do walk the dog. People sometimes ask us for directions and I definetly get asked for directions at work, since we are on the way to Niagara Falls. I try my best but like you I play it over in my mind afterwords. I don't blame you for ignoring cars. I don't walk up to them and I stay on the sidewalk, besides Shadow looks like she'd mess up anyone who bothered her mommy!

The Fab Furs said...

I know how you feel, I'm always second guessing myself as to the efficacy of my directions.I walk a lot and use landmarks rather than street names: I can get you there if you want to follow me, but it takes me a while to think of how to explain it to someone else. Usually I feel like I give someone a general sense of where it is, though there is nothing like the feeling of having given perfect directions only to watch the car make the first wrong turn possible. Ultimately, I feel that while I am willing to try to help people out, it is their responsibility to take charge of their own destiny and if buying a map/using Google Maps is too much planning for them, then they have to live with spontaneously getting lost.

bunnygirl said...

I often get asked for directions when I'm running around campus. The problem is that I've been coming around here since the mid-80s and I know this campus by instinct. It's hard to give directions when you know a place too well because you don't think of it in the same way a stranger would.

Michaela said...

This happens to me, too. Usually people ask for specific places that I have never heard about in my life. One time, a woman stopped me to ask if I knew where she could get a weight-loss body wrap done. Um? I couldn't help her. And I felt very self-conscious when she drove away. I kept thinking: Do I look like I need a weight-loss body wrap??

Anonymous said...

All of the time! Normally where's Pier 39, where's Beach Blanket, or where can I find dim sum.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Hee Hee - good quandry! Every speech class I've ever taken always had an exercise to look at a map, and then give someone verbal directions to someplace on it!

BL and a daughter are coming to SF in October. They are staying in the Hearst house in Sausalito and riding the ferry to down town. If you see them lost looking, head them back to that ferry!!!

Ho Ho - verify word is restram! Ever have that asked?

PS Lost in Central Park? What a great place to be lost in!

Lisa said...

HeeHee, I do the same thing, offering help to people with maps (especially when they decide they need to take that map out in the MIDDLE of the busy sidewalk, it's just dangerous). People think NYers are nasty, for some reason. I've been here 6 years and still ask for directions if I'm in an unfamiliar neighborhood. And I've NEVER had someone who wasn't more than happy to help. Nor have I ever declined to help someone. The key is, asking the right person. I would never ask a runner, runners shouldn't stop, not good for the muscles, I don't run but even I know this. People are really dumb sometimes.

Alisa said...

LOL! I'm not a good direction giver...I break out the iphone and let the GPS do the work for me.

Mica said...

AHHH! I had an Asian lady literally jump out IN FRONT of me while I was running next to the Seine in Paris. She popped out of nowhere, I guess because I was Asian, and started trying to speak with me. From what I garnered, she wanted to know WHERE the river was...

I don't get that many people asking me for directions. Last year, though, two Mormons stopped me in the middle of a winter run and tried to convert me. Lame.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I really dislike being asked for directions, specially by people in cars. I don't drive so see the city purely as a pedestrian, and don't know about one way streets etc

audgepodge said...

You are totally right! I get asked for directions a lot when I'm running in SF, too.

But asking for a good place to see the bridge from GGP? C'mon, you're not google - geesh, people.

I can understand feeling guilty - but think of it this way, they get what they paid for. So no worries if you don't give the best quality answer! :D

Hey my word verification word is "recap"! Neat.