Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Brother, the Direction Savant

When my brother Tom was ranting about bad Christmas carols the other day, you may have noticed in his Shakespearean apologia to readers that he mentioned having a "savant-like sense of direction." Now that he's outed himself in a public venue, I figure I can exploit that topic for today's blog.

To put it simply, Tommy is like Rain Man when it comes to directions. As long as he's been to a place once in his life past the age of, perhaps, six (We haven't tested earlier), he never, and I mean NEVER, forgets how to get around. And it's way freaky.

Case in point: Before Troy was born, our parents took Tommy and I on a road trip to Washington, DC, when I was 14 and he was 10. We saw all the usual stuff--the monuments, the Smithsonian museums, the White House exterior, making our base camp at a small hotel near Arlington Cemetery. Flash forward 15 years later, when Jose and I had recently moved to a DC suburb and Tommy had to fly into National Airport for a business trip. I picked him up in the evening, and as he looked around, he said something about how it would be nice to see the monuments at night.

Now I have a fairly decent sense of direction, though I'm never sure of myself. I just get vague hunches and pretty much use The Force until I find my way. I hadn't been in DC for that long, and like Tommy, I hadn't seen the monuments at night yet. So I said sure, let's go see them, but don't hate me if I get lost.

Tommy's response? "Take the next exit."

I must've looked at him oddly, because then he said, "Seriously, take the next exit. I remember this."

To which I shrieked, "YOU WERE TEN!"

But, since I hadn't a clue where we were going, I took the next exit. He then proceeded to lead me around a rotary, through the snarl of criss-crossing streets and highways that stand between National Airport and the center of the city, and down a few of the numbered and lettered streets until we hit Constitution, which, he proclaimed, would take us to the Mall. And so it did.

Just yesterday, I discovered that the large, gray building being constructed by developers across from my neighborhood grocery store is going to be a SuperTarget. Tommy happens to work for Target's corporate office, so I asked him when the Target on XXX Drive was slated to open. I forgot to mention that our community is so new, it's not even remotely on Mapquest. I also forgot to mention that said SuperTarget, though only a mile or so from my house, is across a county line, so while my house is in one city, it's in another. So, poor Tommy was pretty much doomed when he tried to find it using the street I gave him.

However, a few minutes later, he gave me the proper address, the SuperTarget's opening date, and a complaint over my neighborhood not being in Mapquest and my getting the city wrong. I asked him how he managed to find the address despite the obstacles I'd thrown at him. Keep in mind that's he's only been to visit us here once, about a year ago.

And he said: "I switched the map to satellite view, found the grocery store near your house, and figured it out from there."

I pointed out that the satellite map view has no street names.

"Don't hate me."

See! Weird, isn't it?

This uncanny ability doesn't seem to have bled into other areas of his psyche. We've tried spilling boxes of toothpicks in front of him, and not only does he fail to count them all in a micro-second, he usually starts making fun of us for being clumsy. We've taken him gambling, and he has not brought home the big bucks playing blackjack. And while his math skills are pretty good, he claims that if we try sending him to NASA anytime soon to calculate Shuttle trajectories without the proper schooling, he would probably crash it. And I'm sure my sister-in-law wouldn't appreciate his joining the CIA to disappear for days on end when they call him to read intelligence maps, so that's out, too.

If one is going to have a savant-like ability, it would be nice if said ability brought one either fame or fortune. Sadly, Tommy's may not bring him either--unless we can talk him into going on the Amazing Race--but it is rather fascinating. I think he should have his own Discovery Channel special.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

My sister Glennis is the Yin to Tom's Yang, which sounds porno but isn't. She has NO sense of direction whatsoever. I mean NONE. It's sad. She tries to blame it on bad road design but we all know it's her.

Jen said...

I'd watch it. LOL. I have NO sense of direction. My hubby has a GREAT sense of direction. Thank God. He's not as amazing as your brother, but he's good.

Tracy Montoya said...

Poor Glennis. That HAS to be challenging.

Hey, Jen! Everyone, Jen has a new holiday short story out at the Wild Rose Press!

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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