Running away from home...

...OR...Insomnia due to mental mapping.

Used to stay awake reviewing how I could get to Grandma's house if I had to either escape or rescue my family. It would be a long walk, one hundred twenty miles, and I needed to remember all the landmarks, signs, and turns. I was sure Grandma could solve any problem if I could just get to her house.


  • Watch for the Sinclair gas station with the inflated Dino Dinosaurs, and the Texaco station with the red toy firetrucks. 
  • Be sure to line all toilet seats with toilet paper!
  • Part of the trip would be rolling hills with Blue Boot Shoe Store signs. 
  • Count the windmills.
  • Notice the church steeples and the county courthouses.
  • Name the rivers, and beware of the flooded trailer courts.
  • Get from here to there in the land of clear blue water with the Hamms Beer bear.
  • Twirl objects in the air. 
  • Fold fractions with paper to spare.
  • See the earth from way up there. Way up where?  Way up in the Ferris Wheel? Get a bird's eye view!

This is your brain on GPS:

These are the brains of your kiddies in the backseat watching Disney movies and clicking handheld video game devices:

Scary stuff!

I keep returning to Leon Neyfakh's op ed in the September 22, 2013 Dallas Morning News, "Where is GPS Taking Us?" He says brain research shows mental mapping is becoming a lost art. GPS is rerouting our brains. Not to be a sci fi doom/gloom brain-in-a-jar Igor, but part of our brain is atrophying.  Ick! Yow!

Who is Leon Neyfakh anyway?  He is the "Ideas" reporter for the Boston Globe where the story first appeared in August.

"Technology is disrupting something the human brain is supposed to do well. When we use GPS, the research indicates, we remember less about the places we go and put less work into generating our own internal picture of the world."

Yup, Sheriff Leon is telling us pardners to use it or lose it. And when he says, "This town ain't big enough for the both of us," we will stare like deer in the headlights and say, "What town?"

Sure, GPS is great for business travelers on a short trip to a new place dealing with freeways and exits. It's good for the driver of the airport shuttle picking up passengers all over the Metroplex who REALLY don't want to be late and miss flights. Firefighters and other first responders should have any tools available to hasten their arrivals.

The rest of us need to be beefing up our geospatial cognitive memory and environmental awareness.  That's technical talk for knowing where in the hey-ho we are!

Did you walk ten miles to school everyday through the snow and uphill both ways with the buckles on your overshoes jangling? Children did walk considerable distances to school without a hovering parent because those kids knew where they were in their world.

Thirty years ago most kids walked or biked to school from age five because they knew their neighborhood. They had a mental map of the route. They had organized this information in their memory. They had mental images of the landmarks.

When those kindergartners walked back home after school they had a note about the parent-teacher meeting safety-pinned to their jackets. Their parent unpinned the note, wrote the information on the family calendar, or stuck it on the refrigerator with a magnet. The parent showed up at the meeting without email reminders or tweets. What a concept!

How do we store, sort, connect, organize, and retain information in our memories? As we grow up, how does that ability develop? As we grow old, how does that ability decline? What is the price our brains are paying for reliance on technology?

[A.: Less gray matter in the hippocampus, the part that encodes spatial memories, leaving us at higher risk for dementia and schizophrenia..]*

We are never pushed to do the difficult work of recalculating for ourselves since GPS does thatvvvvv. We rarely suffer the natural consequences of failure to plan ahead. It's been a long day, but I can say we don't pull the sleeves of our jackets right-side-out before we hang them in our cubbies. We are sorely underprepared to respond to challenges that may arise.

In our technologically enabled lives we don't need to know our way.  Truly knowing our way and that is so very different from following a set of turns and instructions. Our turns aren't matters of life and death, but we miss the experience of correcting our own course. When you miss a turn, you become more focused on analyzing what just happened and where you are and what you need to do.

1st Salesman 
Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker, ya can talk, 
ya can bicker, bicker, bicker, ya can talk, ya can talk, 
ya can talk, talk, talk, talk, bicker, bicker, bicker, 
ya can talk all ya want but is different than it was. 

No it ain't, no it ain't, but you gotta know the territory 

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder

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