Friday, May 25, 2007

On finding new suburbs and being geographically misplaced (or: dude, where's my car?)

I've just finished rereading a great book called 'Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps' by Barbara and Allen Pease. It's so good! They talk about the differences between the male and female brains, and our different strengths and weaknesses.

Although I think it's great to figure out what your weaknesses are, I'm discovering that it's equally important to know what your strengths are - because without knowing what you're good at, it can be easy to assume that everyone else should be able to operate the same way as you. For example, I think two of my strengths are conversing and communicating, and I tend to assume that if people aren't communicating with me very well (or at all) that they must be entirely capable of communicating, but they are just not doing it! Whereas actually, I need to keep reminding myself that while I find it easy and enjoyable to keep in touch with everyone, actually it can be a lot harder or less enjoyable for other people.

I'm also finding it nice to begin appreciating people as different to me, and enjoying how strengths that I have can compliment strengths of others.

One area which as yet I currently am not all that strong is geographical awareness. Barbara & Allan are with me on this one, and say that men have a much better spatial awareness than women, are able to carry virtual maps in their heads, and rotate maps in their head. Women are not so good at this (obviously these are all generalisations btw) hence why you'll see girls turning the map around to face the direction they're going in.

Now, turning the map around to face the direction you're going in makes perfect sense to me. How could you read it any other way?? How could you get a proper perspective of where you are in relation to the map in front of you? It's good for me to remember that other people have a strength in this area that I lack, and me turning the map round at every corner probably looks crazy to them!

Quite often since I've moved to Sydney (and, honestly, throughout my entire driving career) I have been lost. Well - lost is such a terribly judging word don't you think? I prefer the term geographically misplaced. And quite often I haven't actually gotten lost and taken the wrong way - it's merely the scenic route. Let's not say that I took the wrong turn off, rather let's say that I discovered new suburbs and learnt new roads. Well, keeping this in mind, can I relate to you that I also quite often lose my car in carparks. Quite often. I'll come out of the shops, with lots of shopping bags full of delightful purchases, car keys in hand - and be totally stumped as to where my car actually is. There was one occasion... ohhh, it was more of an ordeal than an occasion actually, and it happened quite a while ago but I've been too traumatised about it for too long to blog about it so far. But, in the spirit of honesty and truthfulness and confession... and to give you a chance to laugh at my shortcomings (go ahead, laugh, I'm sufficiently recovered by now to see the possibility of there being humour in the situation) here is the full story.

So it was actually when Jacx was visiting Sydney ages ago, she was staying out at Castle Hill, and my last chance to see her was to dash over to Castle Towers one day after work and meet up with her for coffee. I'd never been to Castle Towers before (in fact, the whole west side is a bit if a mystery to me still) so I printed out the directions from whereis and thought I'd probably be fine. Bad assumption. There was a turn off (somewhere) that I was supposed to take that I missed, and I ended up on one of those roads where you can't turn off, can't turn around, can't do anything but keep going. And I was already running late! Frustrating! So eventually I found a side street where I could turn around, do some creative side-street maneuvering, and eventually I was going back the other way. Fine. Until, all of a sudden, I've missed this flipping road again, and now I'm way too far in the opposite direction! And Jacx is calling me asking where I am!

Pressure! I manage to find a set of traffic lights where I can do a not-entirely-illegal u-turn, and head back the other way. This time I'm doing 20k's under the speed limit, determined that the turn off will not beat me this time! And phew, I find it (it was totally disguised btw) and get on the right road. Finally in the distance I spot Castle Towers in the distance - hurrah! I pull into the closest carpark, park, get out of my car and run straight into the shopping centre. As soon as I get in (noting that I'm near a shoe shop) I get straight on my phone to Jacx to find out where she is and where I should meet her. She talked me through the directions ; 'up the escalator here, got along this corridor, past the food court' etc. etc. So finally I get to see Jacx, and we sit down and chat for ages and have tea and stuff, and it's great.

Finally however I have to let Jacx go, and however reluctantly, I do. I spy an escalator which leads to the car park. "Bewdy." I think, and head down there. This is where I find that there are actually 4 levels of car parks here, none of which look familiar. Well, this is okay, it's not the way I came in so I'm not all that suprised. I decide to retrace my steps. I walk back along past the food court and down the corridor - and now I find out that while Jacx and I had been merrily chatting away, half the shopping centre has been closed, and there is a massive barrier gate preventing me from retracing my steps. Hmm. Well, still not really panicking, I mean, how many car parks can a shopping centre have?

And the answer was, overwhelmingly, lots.

The shopping centre has 3 main floors The, Upper Level, Middle Level and Lower Level. Fresh Food stores, lower class specialty shops and the supermarkets are on the lower floor. On the middle level there is Discount Department stores and department stores as well as middle class fashion and specialty retailers. On the upper level there is department stores and cinemas and Up market fashion stores.

It also features and prides itself on over 5000 FREE indoor car parking spaces and 1000 outdoor spaces.

(From the wik)

So it seems that there are about 5 different colour carparks at Castle Towers, and each one has a couple of different levels. And in my total haste to get to Jacx I had paid absolutely no attention to what colour carpark I was in or where my car was in that carpark. Well, I didn't start to panic straight away. I decided to multi-task since I was just walking around anyway, and called a friend on my mobile and had a good chat as I (attempted) to methodically peek out at each carpark and spot my car.

After about an hour of this (yes, an hour!) I decided that I needed to change tack. I found some security guards and asked them where the carpark was. "Which carpark?" they asked. Ahhh... here's another problem. I didn't remember the name of the street that I came in from.
The sinking feeling starts.

I now decide that if I could go outside and find the road that I came in on, I could find the carpark that I parked in, so I left the shopping centre and started skirting the perimeter. Wow - turns out the outside is pretty big too! And actually some of the shopping centre is possibly underground, and it's spread over two huge blocks. I walked around the whole place, and ended up coming back to the carpark that I'd first started searching in, which did not contain any trace of my car. I was wearing impractical work high heels, my feet were starting to hurt, it had now been 2 hours since I'd left Jacx and I was starting to think that my car had slipped into an eddy in the fabric of the space/time continuum and was now actually not in existence on my plane of reality any longer. This was getting serious. I needed help.

But who do you call? The NRMA? The police? There's a real lack of practical help for girls in certain situations, and this is one of them. (I have long maintained that just as I have an IT help desk at work who come and fix any IT problems I have immediately, there should also be a 'life help desk' staffed with people who are fully equipped to assist you in any life situation that you need help in. But, suprisingly, I digress)

Finally I realised exactly who could help me - my step-dad Gary! Hurrah! He knows his way around everywhere. He is a local everywhere. He never gets lost ever. Sure, he lived up on the Central Coast which is about an hour and a half away, and it was about 9pm by this time, but I had total confidence that if anyone could help me, if would definitely be him. The conversation went something like this:
Me: "Gary, I'm lost, I can't find my car, where is it."
Gary: "Hey?"
Me: "I'm in Castle Towers, I came from North Ryde on a big road with a toll and parked in the closest carpark to the road, and now I can't find my car. Can you help me? Where is it??"
Gary: "Hang on, I'll get my map."
Me: "I'm getting blisters. My car is so lost."
Gary: "Oh, you would have come off the M2. Which street are you on now? Okay, can you see a park?"
Me: "There is no park."
Gary: "Keep walking, you should see it on your right and your carpark will be on your left."
Me: "There is a park! I see a park!"
Gary: "If you came in on that road, this would have been the first carpark you would have hit."
Me: "It's not here."
Gary: "This is definitely it. Try the next level up."
Me: (after walking up the car ramp as the pedestrian stairs were locked) "My car! My car! My blessed, blessed car!! Thank you, thank you!!"

Ah, so there you have it. Over 2 hours of fruitless searching, some serious blisters, and (possibly) a few frustrated tears, and Gary found my precious car for me in under 5 minutes.

Now, let it not be said that I went through that ordeal in vain. After that incident I introduced a fool proof system of locating my car, utilising my handy little camera phone, that has now become mandatory upon exiting my car in any shopping centre car park.

Go ahead and laugh boys, go ahead and laugh. You've probably never had this problem, and for that I am eternally in awe. But for the rest of us, who tend to be geographically misplaced for much of our lives... learn from my pain!!!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Recipe for a perfect Sunday afternoon...

How good are days off? Last week was beautiful, we had two days at work, then a public holiday, two more days at work, then a weekend. I could totally get used to that. I've felt a bit out of sorts this week back at work, knowing that I have to go for 5 whole days at work, uninterupted by any free days off. It feels a bit unreasonable actually!

But I had a glorious Sunday. Glorious! It was a beautiful sunny day. We went to church in the morning and heard a great message from Phil Dooley about confidence (which may take a while to sink in!). I love my church! After church Chris and I went for brunch at Depot - which was a bit of an experiment. I'm a big fan of brunch in cafes, and mostly after church I go for brunch at the Wah Wah Lounge. My cafe criteria go like this:

1. vibe - of which I'm mostly concerned with comfy seats
but also nice lighting (sitting outside preferable)
enough elbow room
tables big enough to fit my plate and a teapot on without having to do a rubix cube shuffle whenever I want to eat or drink
quiet enough to be able to chat

2. all day breakfast - I can't be having with these 'lunch menu after 11.00' outfits, who's ready to have brunch before 11.00? Not moi.

3. service - a smile goes a million miles with me :-)

So trying a new cafe is exciting, but also a bit of a risk! Depot had great food, but a very industrial kind of vibe, wooden chairs, small tables etc. So it didn't fit my fave criteria. Great to try something new though :-)

After brunch, and some assorted Ikea flatpacking adventures, we went down to Botany Bay to
check out the Laperouse museum, which was so interesting! Did you know that a French expedition landed in Australia just a few days after the First Fleet? And that this was the last place they were seen alive before they vanished mysteriously?

La Perouse Museum at Botany Bay

I love the 'whenceanyaccount'! I think that something may have been lost in the translation from French there ;-)

Local hazards...

The view of the bay is magnificent. I was so excited to realise that this is actually the place where the First Fleet sailed in, and the actual bay were they parked and landed. (Okay, so my nautical jargon is possibly a bit out, but you get what I mean) (you park a ship right?!)

Ship coming in to the bay (note: may not be actual First Fleet ship)

Wow, I've really been getting all patriotic lately! Maybe it comes from living in Sydney, and getting to see all the history that still remains here. Maybe it comes from hanging out with a Yorkshire lad and showing off my city! I love living in Sydney, and Sundays like this only make me love it even more :-)

Me and my wonderful boyfriend Chris!