Being Asked For Directions

I had a nice chat with a stranger the other day.

On my work break, a lady asked me for directions to the university hospital. I started to tell her how to get there, but I realized she probably didn’t know the town at all and I hate trying to give directions. So I decided to walk her there, since I had the time.

On the way, we had opportunity to talk. She said she is from China and came here as a cancer researcher. She was meeting a friend at the hospital.

She explained to me that universities in China are enclosed by a wall. I guess they are entirely separate from everything else. this town must seem chaotic and confusing to her, as there is no way to figure out where the city ends and the university begins. This is literally a college town where the university dominates.

It got me thinking about how different societies can be.

The US can be a rather disorderly place in many ways, even in a smaller town like this. We Americans aren’t the most talented when it comes to building a planned society. This country is a mess of competing interests and jurisdictions. And this can be seen here in the overlapping of city and university with the haphazard location of buildings that don’t share common architectural style.

Even the naming of streets in this town is mostly random. And how some streets connect can be hard to explain. All reasons I try to avoid having to give anyone directions.

All of that despite Iowa being the most orderly planned out state in the entire country.

I suspect China would be quite different in many ways. But I couldn’t begin to guess what a Chinese city or university is like.

2 thoughts on “Being Asked For Directions

  1. Well done! In traditional Arab societies (and plenty of others, no doubt), it’s really common, if someone asks you for directions, to walk them there. It still happens more often than not that they will walk you at least partway.

    • It was a fortuitous situation. I just happened to be going on my half hour lunch break and just so happened to step outside for a walk. I had the time to get to the hospital and back. I was going for a walk and so I might as well walk her there.

      It was a simple enough thing to be helpful, but I understand not everyone would be helpful even when it’s convenient. I’m sure she would have found the hospital eventually. I just figured I might as well be nice, as she obviously didn’t know the town.

      I’ve done that kind of thing before. It’s often easier to walk someone to where they need to go than try to explain it to them.

      There is only one part that made this situation different. The walk was long enough that we had the chance to talk. I just found it interesting to hear her explain what was different in China. It got me thinking because Iowa City is normal to me. It was nice seeing the town through the eyes of someone with a different cultural experience.

      I wouldn’t have written a post simply about walking someone to the hospital.

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