Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Can I Get Directions?

TigerBlog was leaving a strip mall that houses his favorite bagel place a few days ago when it suddenly became obvious there was something wrong with the traffic light. One minute went by. Two minutes went by. Three minutes. And the light refused to change.

Eventually, it became obvious that something was wrong. TigerBlog was third in line at the light to make a left turn, and the second car pulled around and went right instead. After maybe six minutes or so, TB did the same thing and then made an immediate U-turn, only to have the light change at that moment, so he got stuck at it again.

That was a fairly frustrating moment in TB's driving career. Another one happened yesterday, at least until the end.

TB was behind a car for about 10 miles on a road where nobody can pass, and the driver in front was going about half the 45 mile per hour speed limit almost the entire time. Finally, that driver chose to cut through a strip mall rather than taking the jug handle that TB had to take.

When TB went across the jug handle, he saw flashing lights ahead. As he got closer, he saw a police officer had pulled the other car over for cutting through the strip mall.

It left TB to wonder if anyone had ever gotten a ticket after driving that slowly for such a sustained period of time.

The whole system of driving is a fascinating one to TB. It's based completely on trust, and all of society would break down if people weren't able to rely on that the fact that people will drive on the correct side of the road, stop at red lights and stop signs and everything else that everyone takes for granted every day.

How many times do you read about some murderer or some other heinous criminal who was arrested while driving? They might have killed people, but they would never dare cross a double line in a tunnel.

TigerBlog's first car was a 1977 Dodge Diplomat, complete with an eight-track player. If TB had to get someplace back then, or through the series of cars he had after that one, he had to get a map and figure it out. Either that, or rely on his sense of direction, which along with his ability to type fast are among his best attributes.

These days, of course, people can get from Point A to Point B without ever having to think independently about where they are. Their little GPS will tell them exactly where to turn and when, or, for those who don't have them, the directions printed off of Mapquest will do just fine.

People will follow blindly what these directions say, even if they are contrary to what the driver already knows. Turn here? Okay. So what if i went another way 50 times before this.

The website has thousands of pages on it. If you ask the people who produce that material what the most important ones are, they - like TB - would say the stories, the previews, the videos. In short, they'd pick the obvious stuff.

A long time ago, when TB first started working here, Kurt Kehl (now the VP for communications for the Washington Capitals) once remarked about how the people in the OAC would agonize over every detail of a program or a guide that would have fewer than 250 copies printed but would throw together something like the seasonal sports schedule, which would have 15,000 printed.

The same is true of the webpage. Yes, the content is hugely important, and it is what drives much of the traffic.

But there are other parts of the webpage that are, if not equally as important, still very critical, especially to those who come to the site seeking specific information.

And in this day and age, what more specific information is there than how to get to events in the first place.

To that end, the site recently debuted something that seems so simple and easy to overlook but is proving to be a very viewed page: driving directions, complete with a link to a Google map of Princeton's athletic facilities.

The main problem with Mapquest or GPS directions to Princeton facilities is that there aren't specific street addresses for most of them, but the Google maps take care of that problem.

TigerBlog has gotten a billion calls through the years from people who have wanted directions to athletic events here. The addition of the link with the Google maps is the biggest step to making it easier than ever to get here.

It doesn't address the issues related to the construction of the new neurosciences building that has destroyed the parking near Roberts Stadium and Class of 1952, but hey, at least nobody has an excuse for getting lost on the way.

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