When you’re making a TV show about navigational skills, it’s likely you’ll find yourself in a city that tests those skills. There are lots to choose from. We ended up in two that are known for their unique challenges.
In today’s post: London, England, voted the most difficult city in the world to figure out.
London throws at the Canadian the additional frustration of driving on the ‘other’ side of the road (sometimes called the ‘wrong’ side by those of us light on patience.)
I’m not sure how often the following line was shouted inside the rental van: “Get over! Get over!” while the panicked driver (usually me in these situations) wonders ‘Get over which way?!’ It was often enough to ensure three sets of eyes were permanently fixed on the roadway.
In truth my cameraman (sorry, Director of Photography) did most of the driving because he doesn’t like reading maps. I work the map because I like driving on the right. We rented a GPS, and as we drove we compared GPS directions to map directions.
In the vast spaciousness of North America, sometimes a map can trump that Oxbridge lady and her hesitant, “Recalculating.”
But in the London maze, the wise driver is best to pay Sybil (or Angela or Hortensia or whatever her name is) focused attention, and ignore the dweeb next to him suggesting, “Well, if this is Hammersmith then maybe we should turn left at that, oh heck, we missed it.”
We thought we could document our GPS/map war by mounting a small video camera on the windscreen and record our wayfinding ‘discussions’. For example:
“She’s saying turn left, so why not…?”
“Because the map says this’ll take us to Fulham!”
“She knows where Fulham is. She’s been digitally programmed!”
“But it’s the opposite direction!”
“She hasn’t been wrong yet!”
“Are you kidding me!? She completely missed that pub back there where I wanted to stop.”
Meanwhile the bemused audio guy in the back is reading his smart-phone: “Fulham /ˈfʊləm/ is an area in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, SW6…With its own football team!”
He doesn’t go near the driver’s seat. I always hire the wisest audio technicians.
In the end though, once we turned on the camera, we ended up in a London gridlock that offered us so much time to decide which way to go there were no telling arguments. We simply concluded we would never get there – wherever “there” was – in time.
-Bruce Mohun, director
WHERE AM I? airs Thursday December 5, 2013 on CBC’s The Nature of Things.