Add to this the awful communications of field telephones, the vagaries of 'fraternal fire' (I just can't call it Friendly) and there was a certain recipe for disaster. I think wars were won, ground was settled, and cars were driven better then, than now, due to folks knowing how to converse, and the forgotten skill of giving and taking directions.
For instance, I live on one of those streets that should be easy to find, but is not. Not long ago, I ran a business out of my home and had to give directions to scores of banjo students (arguably not the most promising demographic) who somehow found me.
Part of the problem in direction giving, is that you must imagine seeing things for the first time, and explain only the germane things, nothing else. One can throw in a landmark, but really, is it necessary? I know I am in trouble when someone I am talking to on the phone says: "You know five corners, right?"
Of course I do. I know Five Corners in Spokane, by the Post Office, in Deer Park Washington here in Portland Oregon, (off Killingsworth Street, a street you should always spell carefully for your intended victim) and I think I recall one on the north side of Oahu. But this xenophobe is talking about his Five Corners. Over by the mill. Just after you cross the creek.
At this point I know that young uns who have not driven an average of twenty thousand miles a year for twenty years are piping up. "Just Mapquest it" or Google it, or god knows what else. No. I seldom do that, but I may use it as an adjunct to directions I find on a quaint nineteenth century device I call The Map. Most of the last two centuries were devoted to finding and identifying places, and putting them on maps, and I for one am not abandoning that for the narrow view afforded by a computer screen. Go to, indeed. Where are you coming from?
Maps work well, but are not perfect. They take some getting used to. I still get lost when I should not, but I also amaze myself (my harshest critic) with my encyclopedic knowledge of various places and streets. I have done tree work in many neighborhoods around here. And around Oahu. And around Seattle. And around Spokane. I love the Thomas Guides. In Oahu, we used Brian's Sectional Maps.
Basically, a book of various maps, with the edges of each describing where it fits into the next. When someone mentions Five Corners, I politely ask for the address, and the nearest large cross street. Some people, unfamiliar with this, will stubbornly repeat... "Well it's Broadway, but if you go past the mill to Five Corners all you have to do is just cross the crik and..." I listen with half an ear and look it up meanwhile. For this, it is essential to have a map in the car and a map in the office. A simple rule, but an important one.
I still ask " Is that Feniway Street, or Place, or what?" And believe it or not, get impatient responses!
"Court of course. There IS no Feniway Place. "(Not since the war, how stupid of me).
But worse than this is the people who say," Yeah, I think its Feniway Place. Anyway, you go on past the little crik, and..." They do not know.
They have an address, but it is unimportant. Letters are a thing of the past, after all. A physical address is becoming archaic. But if I have to get to your tree is, an address is essential. I try to smile while I talk over the phone, because they say you wrinkle less. Plus, people can hear a frown. But I have also developed what some tree and service people all over the world probably know already, and I share it with you here, as a public service from view from the trees.
I write shorthand, and I write it big on the back of the work order, or on about a half page of the 8.5x 11 phone log. This is because, while driving, I may have to consult it in a hurry, and I do not want to search for my place on the directions at thirty miles per hour. As I read it, I fold it from the top, so that I have erased and saved directions as I go. So very 90's. So very Eighteen nineties. Get it? My shorthand goes like this:
Just a big L, but I do a circle around it.
Right turn =R. I guess I got into doing the circle around it because I was trying to make it very plain to myself what I meant. Anyhow, I do it.
RR or RRX means, you guessed it, Railroad tracks or 'cross railroad tracks'
1 mi. means 1 mile.
1 blk.= One block.
I write out the words 'past' and 'until'. No wait, sometimes I fudge on that and I write the word 'till'. I may say 'to'.
Oh, and interstates get a drawing of a badge, with the number inside it. Crude, but effective, I find.
That's pretty much it. Then I can read it on the run, not that I want to, but my memory is short, so even though I read it to myself a few times before starting, I need to refresh the page a few times during the journey. And one other thing, just in case, I do write a few notes in the margin, such as, 'near 5 crnrs? Go over bridge?' Just in case.
So the directions today said;
" I-5 N to Exit 32. R to 117th, L 7 mi. till R onto W.Main. (becomes E.Main, then NE 219th st.) L on 182nd Ave. 1.3 mi. to NE Allworth Rd. 1.8 mi approx. to Rock Creek. R.... Then the address, what house on the right or left. Simple dimple. Why not?