Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A World A Week: Psychotropic Maps or Fist Fights With Map Readers.

It was dark and gloomy sunset, I was sitting at the wheel of my work vehicle at a park along the shores of Lake Erie (pick the most central point in Cuyahoga County) when a buzz in my shirt pocket notified me that I had to leave the locale to do my job. My partner, looking at the electronic map display along with the details mumbled, "We're going just southwest of the Turnpike."

I looked at the message on my phone and started the vehicle. It was gibberish, with an wholly undistinguished street address. Understandably, I found the phrase "...Southwest of the Turnpike..." annoying. Having a good mental image of a map in my head didn't help, we could have been headed to the middle of California with the information that I was given. I had  no good idea of where I might be going. You see, the toll road mentioned runs from outside of Toledo to just west of the Pennsylvanian border. When I asked "Whereabouts?", the map-reader got into a snark and directed the conversation directly towards a small island called The Edge of My Nerves. 
"In Cuyhoga county." He replied with smart sharpness.
"Oh, you mean Strongsville?" I replied.
Judging from his suddenly uncomfortable expression, hopefully it dawned on the map-reader that there were three places within Cuyahoga county that met his criteria of "Southwest of the Turnpike." It also might've dawned on him, I was the one actually in charge of our working relationship. So while "Bucky" was suddenly pulling back on his tone and rash statements, I realized most people don't know how to read maps.
With the vehicle in "Park," I asked to see the map and then explained to him why his communication methods should be improved as he found his next job.  While the newbie might still feel the need to explain to where his father once lived and where his Pennsylvanian heritage comes from , I remain totally unimpressed.

What I get out of the previous interaction, is the fact that folks don't read maps. They have lived their lives being shuttled from one point to another. Then when of all of a sudden, and rather unexpectedly, the age of maturity jumps in demanding that one makes his way through the world, things get challenging.  Folks, when living in their head, don't live on a grid. They live in some kind of a point-to-point frame of reference along a line of familiar events and will follow grammatical-like breakdowns to get from point to point.

I already knew this in 1997.  In '97 I was running yet another Call of Cthulhu campaign that could've been described as pretty hip. In the late 80s I thought CoC scenarios were getting pretty staid as well as formulaic. So I decided to take Lovecraftian Scooby-Dooers into the Journey Towards the Center of their Minds. There was a supplement about the "Dreamlands" out since the late 80s, I didn't like how prosaic it was. I drew my own maps and worked out Dreaming into Real Gamer terms.

Now these sorts of maps are not without precedence. In the "Middle Ages," that means between the enlightened Ancients and decidedly backward folks that came afterwards, most maps were the equivilant of PowerPoint presentations with as much knowledge and perspective as one would expect.

It doesn't get any better with education level. Indeed the more educated the explorer, the more incomprehensible he, or she, is. My biggest battle as a map-maker with idiosyncratic map-readers was a scenario by Ken St Andre prompted me to produce the map pictured below.  

Oh the outrage lasted for days. At last I produced this.

I am not sure of what was expected, but I am sure I disappointed. Hence my impatience with the under-indulged these days.

Oh yeah, yes the kid is still employed. I am easily annoyed not that vindictive though.

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