Many, many years ago I was involved in an unfortunate incident which led to me doing something that I thought only happened in movies. I was in a radio studio during a live broadcast and the atmosphere was hot, humid and stuffy – not something I tolerate particularly well. I started feeling distinctly queasy and light-headed, along with the telltale aura of an incoming migraine. What happened next, I’m told, was that I passed out quite spectacularly, right across the DJ and decks, completely disrupting the broadcast and breaking my nose in the process.
I came round shortly after, having been carried out the studio and accompanying mayhem, and the next thing I remember is coming around to find myself lying on a couch whereupon I uttered the classic line: “Where am I?” – I really didn’t think that anyone in real life ever actually said that when regaining consciousness, but obviously I was wrong!
Throughout my life that phrase, ‘where am I’, is one that has featured frequently. It’s a question I’ve pondered at various times and in various ways, for example, when considering where I’ve arrived on life’s journey and what options and decisions I have to make when deciding on the way forward for the future. However, far more frequently, it’s a phrase that gets plenty of use when travelling and I haven’t a clue of my whereabouts and location. I am ace at getting lost! For years I’ve tried to fool myself that I can find my way around anywhere, but the truth is that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve become hopelessly lost, whether on foot or in the car.
That isn’t to say that I’m no good at using maps or other aides, it’s just that sometimes such things are just not enough to get me out of trouble – if indeed I use them at all, since I have an unswerving, but utterly misguided belief in my ability to navigate my way around anywhere, no matter how unfamiliar the location. My favourite trick is to turn right when I should be turning left, or head north when I should be going south, which even with modern technology is incredibly easy to do. There is, for example, the occasion I was unable to work out which direction I should head when leaving Manchester Piccadilly station, so I plumped for the way they seemed most likely – two hours of tramping around later, despite having Google maps at my fingertips, I was still nowhere near finding my destination, as well as being completely bewildered and having lost all sense of direction. It didn’t help when I found out that if I’d turned the other way out of the station, turned left and walked up the hill, I’d have reached my intended goal in about three minutes!
More terrifying was getting hopelessly lost in the souks of Fes, which saw me literally going around in circles, much to the amusement of the jeering locals, who I swear were laying bets on how many times I was going to pass the same spot, and in which direction!
Yet I have no such difficulty in SL. Inworld I rely extensively on the world map and mini map for guidance advice and direction and have no trouble at all. If I’ve visited a sim once, I can unerringly find my way around it again, even if my next visit isn’t until months later, and on the mainland, I can even work out my relative position and navigate without assistance simply from knowing the name of the particular land parcel I’m on. Why this should be, when I’m so hopeless at getting about in the real world, I don’t know.
You have to question the efficacy of SL’s world map anyway. Back in the days when you could walk the entire length of a virtual continent in a matter of minutes, a map was probably an unnecessary luxury. Then, as the Grid grew, having a global atlas became something of a necessity. Now, the virtual world is so dispersed, with the bulk of the space occupied by unconnected private islands, the map has become far less useful. There is simply too much land mass, spread across too many locations to gain a useful overview of anywhere – if you’re looking for something specific, you’d spend a better chance of finding a very small needle in a very large haystack – you may as well randomly TP to any old location and take pot luck.
Once you’re on the ground, you’re not much better off. The mainland is so sparsely populated these days, there are few landmarks of any real consequence we can use as way points; on the other hand, most private sims are so small no map is required, you can see pretty much everything just by standing in one spot.
SL does have one huge advantage over the real world however: It doesn’t matter where in the Grid you are, or how lost and disoriented you might be, because with the simple click of the mouse you can be home in an instant.
If only it was that simple in the real world!
Strange little girl, where are you going?
Strange little girl, where are you going?
Do you know where you could be going?
The Stranglers – Strange Little Girl