Watch Out for Those Preconceptions!

My very first solo trip on an airplane was when I was 17 and visiting St. Louis to check out Washington University. I got there a day early and wanted to explore the city. Since this was years before I could’ve rented a car it meant a hike. Which was fine!

Only it ended up being a four hour sojourn that didn’t take me to any of the landmarks I wanted to see. Despite me having a detailed map with me1 I was totally lost for almost the entire time.

Turns out I’d made a silly mistake when I set foot out of the hotel: I subconsciously assumed the direction on my left was northwest. Because that was the case in the house I’d grown up in. Which highlights that I can be both (a) tricked by myself and (b) very stubborn in the face of conflicting data 🙂2.

It was an impactful enough experience that I swore I’d never make the same mistake again.

And I haven’t. Until this morning. When, for some reason I concluded the entrance to the place we’re staying in Chicago faced south. So Barbara and I set out for a walk towards Lake Michigan, not expecting to get there in the time we had but confident that we knew, or at least I knew, where we were.

Fortunately, we ran into the Chicago River. Which caused me to realize we had gone in the exact opposite direction to where I thought we were heading. Turns out the apartment entrance faces north, not south.


Fortunately, when you’re exploring a new city it’s not possible to get lost. Since it’s all grist for the mill.

  1. I was the family navigator on car trips since I was little — I always like to know where I am, and got pretty good at translating landmarks, and even road curves, into map locations. 

  2. which is why I’m very sensitive to that kind of mistake, I suspect 

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