Monday, May 21, 2012

Where Y'at? (a treatise on giving directions)

Today is the day that I give my unbiased and totally correct opinions about giving (and receiving) directions. Since I'm a world class expert on this subject (!), and pretty directionally challenged, I thought- why not?

What, you need proof that I've got direction problems? Well, when I was 7 years old I loved to ride my bicycle around our very large block. One day I decided to go around in reverse- didn't cross a single street- in tears, I asked a stranger where my street was (I was on it) and how to get home. Put me inside a building any day of the week, make me turn a corner and then see if I can tell you where anything is outside the building- nope!

Several years ago, a BIG part of my job was giving directions to anyone who called from anywhere to where I was. And here's what I learned- there are pretty well three reasons folks call for directions-
1) They've never been where you are.
2) They don't know how to get where you are.
3) They are hopelessly lost.

So my advice? Remember- They have no clue (None!) how to get from wherever they are to where you are. They've never been there. They don't know the landmarks. They probably don't have a pencil and paper in hand. They barely know where they are right now. Here's what you, as direction giver, must do:
1) Ask where they are- yeah, they probably didn't bother to tell you that.
2) Know the street names, exit numbers, landmarks and approximate distances to get to you from elsewhere.
 This was drummed into my head one day when the man in charge tossed a piece of paper on my desk (because one of my minions was being flaky) telling me that if the customer missed the exit they would have to drive another 7 miles or so before they could turn around and make it right. (Time to change the office workers manual to include that!)
3) If the directions are complicated (and when are they not?), make sure the person is capable of writing them down.
4) Be clear, don't use the back route if the regular route is easier to explain. Concentrate on simplicity!

My best direction story? The day someone called me from the parking lot where I was working and asked how to get back home- true story! And yes, I did give them directions!

As a direction receiver, what should you do?
1) Have paper and pencil at the ready.
2) Listen. Do not cut the direction giver off unless you aren't keeping up with the writing part.
3) Read back the directions.
4) If you're calling from a cell phone- pull over if you're the driver- know where you are!

OK- that's all I've got for now!

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