Those who remember an old blogpost of mine from a couple of years ago (15 October, 2012) will know that I am a fully paid up member of the Fukawi tribe. We are a strange breed, greatly misunderstood by those outside the tribe because of our inability to find our way around like other people. If someone tries to tell us how to get from here to there, they assume that we can retain any instructions that follow “turn left at the first set of traffic lights”. If they burble on about landmarks, even very big landmarks, we nod cheerfully because it’s no use trying to explain that we are already lost, even before we’ve set out.
On foot we are more capable. Perhaps it’s something to do with having more time to take in our surroundings. And street maps are really useful – we rarely go out without one. Even so, we can make mistakes. For example, we lived in Wellington for two years, in a house that was perhaps three blocks from the supermarket. Sometimes I would emerge from the supermarket and head for home, only to wonder, three blocks on, why I wasn’t there yet. And why the houses looked unfamiliar. I had come out of a different exit from the supermarket and marched confidently up the wrong street – again.
Now it seems that some of us are missing a personal GPS in our brains. A team of scientists has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.” They had attached tiny devices to the heads of mice and watched them run around. When they came to some place they had been before, a light came on – “bingo! I know where I am,” they squeak. I know the feeling.
Well, that’s a relief – we have a condition. But wait, there’s more. According to the television news report, there’s a suggestion that the lack of these vital positioning cells might mean that we are headed for early dementia. Oh, come on. I bet that’s just newsroom dramatising. I’ve been like this all my life, it’s just a matter of dealing with the realities and working around it. My mother was the same, and she died at 92 with all her faculties except for the trifling matter of her short term memory. If she can do it, in spite of her lack of positioning cells, so can I.
Perhaps someone could design a person-sized contraption to attach to our heads like the ones the mice have. Then we of the Fukawi tribe would know where we are too.