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The Lost Art of Spatial Awareness

Updated on August 25, 2013

Do you know where you are?

Spatial awareness. The ability to be aware of oneself in space. Something I have always taken for granted that people were aware of. Lately, though, I have been shaking my head more and more at the general lack of awareness people have for where they are in relation to others.

This goes on everywhere from the highway to the grocery store and all points in between. I present to you some everyday examples. If you are doing the following, it is time to get a spatial awareness tuneup.

The battle ground that is the supermarket aisle

The supermarket is one of the epicenters for lack of spatial awareness. Maybe is in the metal of the trusty shopping cart that sends our spatial compass out of whack.

A point to ponder. Is it really necessary to wheel your cart down the dead center of any given aisle, considering most supermarket aisles are only two and a half carts wide? Wouldn't sticking to one side be more accommodating to the other shoppers. God forbid there are other shoppers in the store when you are, but trust me, it will happen.

Here's a novel concept. When stopping to get the items on your list, you may want to stop the cart on the same side of the aisle as the item you are looking for. Unless, of course, you are setting up a checkpoint for the store. You don't need to block the whole aisle to get your fava beans or your frozen dinner.

Speaking of the list, you might want to check it before you get in the store so you have some idea of what you need. This may cut down on the amount of people who stop dead in their tracks at the intersection of two aisles to ponder what exactly they need for Uncle Biff's birthday picnic, thereby choking off traffic in both aisles.

One last thing. Aisles are much like streets. It is probably not a good idea to go barreling out the end of one aisle into a main concourse without looking . Think of an imaginary stop sign and that may prevent you from running over that nice grandmother in the canary yellow pantsuit.

The Road Warriors

Speaking of the highway, this is another hotly contested spatial awareness ground zero. Now, I don't consider myself old, but back in the eighties we learned about simple rules of the road and simple courtesies that make driving easier.

It goes without saying that using signals and looking before you change lanes are good ways to identify who may be around you. But there are other things to watch out for to make sure your presence does not unnecessarily impede others.

The left hand lane on most mult-lane roads is called the passing lane for a reason. You should be in this lane if you are passing someone in the right hand lane or lanes. It would stand to reason then, that this lane will probably be moving 5-15 miles an hour faster than the posted speed limit. If the cars to your right are passing you, odds are you should not be in the left hand lane in the first place.

One wrinkle to this one. Common courtesy would dictate when cars merge into a road from the right that you move over to the left to give those cars time and space to get up to speed. You should do this whenever you have room on the left. Be aware of where you are and what lanes are open to you.

Last thought on the subject. I live in a border region with a lost of tourists and shoppers coming in from our friendly neighbor to the north, Canada. We can all understand being lost or not being familiar with the surroundings. What is not understandable is slowing down to 15 or 20 miles below the speed limit to try to read road signs you my have missed or to try and read your map (old school) or GPS ( new school). How about pulling on the shoulder to read it? The outlet mall will still be there 15 minutes from now.

I don't think I really have to go into texting, cell phone use, fiddling with the radio, trying to put on makeup or reading the paper while driving. Don't be a knuckehead, don't do these things and lower the odds of being the target of a road rage incident.

What have we learned?

Since this comes off as a bit of rant, probably not much. I think if we can each live a little bit less like we are the only one occupying the general area we are in, then we can save ourselves a lot of short tempers.

Know where you are in relation to others. Look around before you start or stop moving or change direction.

If you are on your phone, go to a place where you don't have to navigate through a crowd or place an order at a busy fast food restaurant.

This might not make the world a totally sane place, but it might make a good start


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    • c-m-hall profile image


      4 years ago from York, Maine

      lol on the "outlet mall will still be there" ... You could do stand-up!


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