I have long had a secret theory that everybody has one very specific and mostly useless superhero power. For instance, I have met a woman who, for years, has always woken up at precisely the same time every day (without using an alarm clock). I know a man who can sound exactly like a trumpet (without using a trumpet). And then there are several people dear to me who have an uncanny ability for finding four-leaf clovers.
My secret theory goes on to say that one day, when evil aliens from outer space attack Earth, circumstances will magically fall into place such that each of us gets to use our very specific superhero power and together, we will save the planet, thus proving that our superhero power wasn’t that useless after all. (Well, I don’t actually really believe that. But wouldn’t it make a great movie?)
Anyway, my personal superhero power is: I get asked for directions. All the time, and no matter where I am. People come up to me, with their little maps or guidebooks or pieces of paper with an address on it, or sometimes just with their complete and utter awareness of being completely lost. Sometimes this happens in places that are really not all that familiar to me. Sometimes, I will arrive in a new city, a new country even, step out of the train station or airport, and immediately, someone comes up to me and asks me for directions.
Now, unfortunately, my superhero power does not extend to actually providing directions. I am completely useless at that. If I know the right way, I have trouble putting it into words. More often though, I do not know the right way.
This is what happened to me the other day: I wanted to go for a run. In my city. Where I live. The plan was to go along the riverside for a bit, then cross a bridge, then come back along the other side of the river. Easy, right? Here, let me make a drawing for you:
How hard can it be?
Well, here is what I did instead:
(By the way, both images are screenshots from the fantastic gmap pedometer, which is one of my favourite toys. Because even though I am really bad with directions, I sort of enjoy maps.)
This, my friends, is my kryptonite. Well, actually, it’s not. It’s the kryptonite of those who foolishly ask me for directions. Because I have learnt to cope with my bad sense of direction (for instance, on that aforementioned run, I had a metro ticket in my pocket, so at any point, I could just have taken public transport home.) That is the beauty of the human brain: It might have quite serious shortcomings, but it also has ways to work around them.
Well, back to my superpower. One day, what will happen is this: The evil space aliens will land on Earth. They will want to be directed to our leader, and of course they will ask me how to get there. “No problem,” I will say, “follow me!” That will stall them for a while – at least until wakeup-girl, trumpet-man and clover-people have figured out how to save the planet.