Where Are We?

you-are-here2Do you ever lose your sense of direction while shopping in an unfamiliar mall?  I find myself searching for one of those kiosks with the big map showing the layout of the entire place including a red “X” with the words “You are here”.  Sometimes though, I’m so lost I can’t even find one of those maps.  It’s at those times I have to find a security guard or go into one of the stores and ask for assistance to find my way.

Getting lost or not knowing exactly where we are can be stressful and even frightening.  That’s why those personal location and navigation devices like “Garmin” and “TomTom” products are such hot sellers.  If you have a newer vehicle with OnStar service or a GPS enabled smart phone, it’s very likely someone somewhere knows exactly where you are at all times.  When I was a navigator and working aboard ships, I was surprised how often the guys who worked down in the belly of the ship would ask me where we were.  I took for granted that I had windows and radar scopes and maps where I worked high up on the ship’s bridge.  I was the one who laid out our track lines.  I monitored our progress toward our destination and could recommend course changes to get us back “on track”.  To save the engineering gang unnecessary stress, I kept a large chart on the wall down on the mess deck where the crew ate.  I would mark our location on the chart a couple of times a day.  It seemed to make everyone feel better knowing where they were.

By using some trigonometry and geometry, I could use processes such as triangulation and trilateration to determine where our ship was on a navigational chart.  I needed more than just math to do this though.  I also had a desk full of plotting tools as well as equipment such as radars, sextants, alidades, compasses, etc.  All that stuff enabled me to produce a collection of pencil lines, or “lines of position” on a paper map – or – a “You are here” or “X marks the spot”.  Notice I said “lines”; plural.  One line of position is the same as being somewhere on a long highway.  A second, perpendicular line forms an intersection and places you at a particular point, one of four corners at an intersection on that highway.  Add one more line crossing the other two and now you have something nearly exact as an address, so to speak.  If an additional “line of position” didn’t confirm the other two or three, I’d throw it out as unreliable – or “off the mark”.

Sometimes we can feel like our position in life is somewhere along a long line and we yearn to know exactly where.  We ask others “Where are we?” and seek directions.  Depending on who we ask, the answer can take us toward our desired intersection or send us immediately off on a tangent angle away from where we were supposed to be going and may even run us aground.  Remember the Sirens from Greek Mythology?    No one knows your track as well as you do.  If you feel you need to adjust your course to get “back on track”, and go looking for recommendations, be sure to get confirmation from different angles.  Without confirmation, all you’ve got is just a line.

© 2014 Curt Savage Media

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