August 24, 2003
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Navigation In The Dark

As I'm walking home, a fellow pulls over and asked me for the best way to drive to Paddington. I'm from Boston, I have no idea where Paddington is, and I'm striding confidently down Gower Street because I narrowly escaped from being enmazed in Russell Square. I'm not that confident anyway: I've been up for 40 hours, I just walked about 15 miles or so through Bloomsbury and Notting Hill (see below), before that I flew across the ocean, and I have just enjoyed two of those excellent (but preternaturally large) pints of real ale.

Someone always asks me for directions. Lately, someone always asks on my first day. Often, in a language I don't speak, in a place I've never been.

Why, exactly, did we think hypertext navigation was a problem?

I had those two pints (memo: special is worth the 15p premium) at a very pleasant, unremarkable pub just down the street from where Foundling's Hospital used to be. It's a park now, for children -- Foundling's is. Not the pub. The pub has always been there, and it's always been a pub.

I did have some trouble, ordering a pint. even though I read an entire thesis on how to act in a pub. Spending more time in Britain and among Britons abroad has left me nearly deaf to accents. I forget that, where I hear a charming trace of an accent I can't place, the other person hears me speaking broad and incomprehensible Chicago with overlays of something nobody can identify anymore as a speech problem (thank you Mrs. Horowitz). Like the Minbari, Britons may sometimes sound like us....

The pub seems unremarkable, but Robert Elms did remark (in London Walks v2) that it's not much changed since his schooldays -- or since the 18th century -- "complete with snugs and engraved screens." So, back in 1775 or so, a couple of medical workers probably sat in the nook where I was reading Hiromi Goto and complained about their caseload and worried together about the troubles over in Boston.

Everything in this post is about hypertext. It has no links.