Geography.

I was arguing with my coworker about whether or not living in New Jersey is something to be proud of  (this is a whole other post, by the way, but not for today).  She and I both grew up in northern NJ, about 10 miles outside of Manhattan.  She’s got the pride, I do not.  It’s not that I hate my state, it’s that I don’t understand being proud to be born somewhere.  I’m not judging, I legitimately don’t understand it.  It just so happened my parents lived here and this is where I was born.  My mother also lived in Maine and Michigan, so I could have just as easily been born in either of those states.  And those states are nice enough but a bit cold for my taste.  

It’s really no secret that I want to move to the San Diego area someday and again, not because I hate Jersey, just because I like California.  Coworker argued that I should want to stay here and it is nicer here because we have the Jersey shore and its wonderful beaches. Yes, the shore is fun; my family visits there frequently.  But I don’t think it’s reason enough to stay East since California has beautiful beaches as well. 

And then this happened:

Her:  Yeah, well, California has sharks in the…  uhhh… whatever ocean is out there.

Me:  Um, what?  Seriously?  Please tell me you’re kidding.  Please tell me you know what the ocean is out there.

Her:  Atlantic?

Me (in my shrillest voice of disbelief):  WHAT?!!!???!!!

Her:  What’s the big deal?

Me:  It’s basic geography!  How could you not know this?

Her:  I don’t care about that.  I do my part, I recycle!*

Me:  Get out.  Get out of my office right now.

But then I followed her to yell at her some more. 

She called another coworker’s extension and asked her if she knew what ocean was off the coast of Cali without asking anyone and she said, “How the f*#@ should I know?”

How should you know?  You should know, and I hate to harp on this, because it is basic geography!

I sought out another of the office young-folk (they are all early 20s to my mid-30s) and I ask her if she knows.  I begged her to please know.  Her response?  “I don’t know what I did ten minutes ago, why would I know that?”

I can’t.  I just can’t.  Someone kill me please, this is absurd. 

Thankfully, when I asked the 4th young woman, she did know and joined me in mocking the others.  It might have been brought up that perhaps this is something “older” people know.  Luckily I don’t condone violence in the workplace.

Since I just can’t let things like this go, I had to grill Coworker #1 on other things – location of states on a map, state capitals, etc.  She didn’t know the capital of New York is not New York City.  When I told her it was Albany she asked why. (Why.  She asked me why Albany is the capital…)  She explained to me that everyone knows when you say you’re “going to New York” you mean you’re going to New York City.  I wasn’t aware that the capital can only be “where everyone goes” and I’m also pretty sure that people go to Albany.  She said she would have guessed the capital of Mexico was Cancun, because she’s been there.  Because apparently that’s the measure for if a city is important enough. 

And, by the way, she’s never been to Albany, so there you go.

It would just be mean of me to rip this poor girl apart publicly if I didn’t say it was (sort of) all in good fun and I like her very much.  She’s fun and I enjoy her company, which is not something I say of many people.  We work in very close proximity to one another and we chat (too) often.  We have great conversations and laugh quite a bit.  She is good at her job and she is smart about computer-y things in a way that I most definitely am not.  But if you need to know where places are, I highly suggest you come ask me.

I’m all for gentle ribbing in the comments, but don’t hate on her too much.  Maybe you want to stick up for her because you don’t know where stuff is either.  Maybe you want to gang up on these young ladies for referring to 35 as “older” – I’m all for that by the way.  Maybe you think I should cut her some slack and you have a reasonable explanation for why 75% of the people in my office under age 25 don’t know where the Pacific Ocean is.

*Please don’t get me started on why I think her recycling practice is about the dumbest reason why she doesn’t have to know geography because I’m pretty sure my brain is going to explode if I continue to think about that.

Edited to add:


After I wrote this post, I showed it to her and she approved me posting it.  It’s her birthday today.  I’m thinking of getting her an atlas.  I wonder if she knows what an atlas is…


Since this incident, she now knows that it is the Pacific Ocean that is located off the coast of California. She also tells me daily that she knows and, apparently, I’m supposed to be impressed.

I’m linking up again this week with Yeah Write!  Click the link below and you will find a grid full of wonderful writers.

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44 Responses to “Geography.”

  1. Tara says:

    um. No lie. My husband once got me a world map for a birthday… and I happen to be under that 35 set…under 30 to be exact. whoops. I think they must have been re-hauling the school system when we were in grade school. My husband thinks perhaps I should sit down with my kids as they go through homework, and gleen a bit… can’t say it is the WORST idea ever :)

    • :) I think it’s hard when people grow up just being able to look things up online. When I was in school (phrases like that could be what make me sound old), you had to remember stuff because pulling out encyclopedias or going back to the library was a real PITA.

  2. Geography gaffs like these hurt me almost as much as glaring grammar ones. Really, you still can’t figure out which “there” to use? Come one. Pretty sure they start teaching that in first grade.

    I think the thing that you (and I) are really reacting to is the implication that paying attention to these “petty” details is somehow not as valuable as, say, recycling. It is all important. The devil is in the details. So, let us all raise our glasses to the bean counters, the fact checkers, the i dotters, and the t crossers—details matter. Liked this post, Erin

    • Thanks Erin! I agree, there is a ton of stuff out there that is just worth knowing, even if it is only because it is worth knowing. And grammar errors – I am a tyrant in my office about that. I’ve been accused of overusing a red pen even when no one asked me to proof something!

    • David Wiley says:

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    • David Wiley says:

      I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. It pains me to read things like this. Almost as much as poor spelling and grammar. I’m glad my fiancee doesn’t use “text lingo” when she texts me or I’d probably go blind.

    • I admit to using text lingo when I’m texting. Usually it’s because I’m in a rush or texting somewhere inappropriate (like a work meeting!). But I also am guilty of texts that should be emails.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Alyss says:

    I’m no geography buff, but I can talk about the major oceans, countries in Europe, and I can name all fifty states and MOST of their capitals (one of those “out of use, out of memory” problems).

    Although I have used the New York = New York City thing to my advantage before: I went to a college in upstate New York, which is more rural than the area of Southern New Hampshire that I grew up in. Of course, I told the people in my high school graduating class that I was going to school “in New York”. After all, it’s not my fault if they assumed it was the big city, and not the state, right? 😉

    • When I don’t feel like admitting to being from Jersey, I will say I’m from “right outside NYC” and hope they don’t ask in which direction!

      I get that it’s hard to remember thing when you have to recall a lot of other things more frequently, but our oceans should be like remembering your name.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Beej says:

    To be fair to your friend, I am pretty sure that people only go *through* Albany, not *to* it!

    And everyone knows that San Diego is on Lake Ohio, you know? It’s one of the Great Salt Lakes. Sheesh.

    • I really don’t know anything about Albany. Other than it’s capitalness. I should make a fake map and try to convince her things are real. Probably wouldn’t be hard. Definitely would be fun!
      Thanks for reading!

  5. Kim says:

    Yikes! This totally reminds me of that bit on Leno where he asks the “average Joe” on the street basic questions and makes them (well they make themselves) look stupid by not knowing. I guess this is also the premiss of “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader.” And we’re supposed to have the greatest education system in the world…

  6. Miranda says:

    It’s amazing to me just how much kids don’t know these days. I teach a group of middle and high school students at my church and more than half of them did not even know how to address an envelope. Technology is great….but I think it sometimes makes people more stupid about the basic things in life.

    • I just had a high school teacher tell me the same thing about envelopes! It’s crazy. I guess when computers do everything for you, you don’t have to learn it. When I was yelling at her, she did say she didn’t need to remember because of Google. Sigh.
      Thanks for reading!

  7. Susie Newday says:

    I think it’s cool that you have a good enough relationship for her to have read this.

    That said I think we are all deficient knowledge wise in one area or another. It depends how you were educated and what was important to your teachers and your family.

    This post kind of reminds me of what Jay Leno does when he goes out and asks people all kinds of questions that they should know answers to and then people don’t know them and give really stupid answers.

    • She is great (except about oceans!) and I love hanging with her at work. I actually don’t post anything about coworkers at work that I wouldn’t say to them directly and I didn’t want her to feel like I was picking on her if it was upsetting. But she was cracking up when she read it, so it’s all good.

      There are definitely things we’re good at remembering and things we aren’t. I am stupid about math unless I have paper – I can’t do most simple stuff in my head. I think we all make strengths and weaknesses, but this one killed me because I didn’t think any adult couldn’t know it!
      Thanks for reading!

  8. My dad used to sing REM’s “Stand in the place where you live….” song to me. It shamed me into getting better at directions and geography.

    • At least you learned it though! It kills me when people can’t tell direction, particularly when we are outside and we can see the NYC skyline (which is pretty common where I live). I mean, if you don’t know that’s east and where you go from there… Of course, I probably just offended half the people I know b/c I know so many people who can’t figure that out. I think I’ll test that one at work tomorrow!
      Thanks for reading!

  9. Gia says:

    No no no no no no she did NOT do that?! Really?!?! I’m from the east coast too and I can’t imagine not knowing that!

  10. I know, right? That’s my point! I swear to you that none of this is made up at all.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  11. HA! Hilarious…and also a bit sad. I’m not the geography queen by any means, but I do know the basics. This reminds me of my boss. We have a student who comes in from time to time who is from Wales. He’s super nice, and we all love him to death. We were discussing him one day, and my boss blurts out: “don’t you just love that he’s Walean?” I wanted to cry.

    This was a hilarious post…love your writing style!

    • Thank you so much Katie! Walean. I love it! I try to always have a back up plan – if I didn’t remember what you call someone from Wales I’d have said, “…that he’s from Wales.” Perhaps I think these thing through too thoroughly though…

  12. Kerstin says:

    That is too funny! I may have snorted a couple of times. I love it that you just tell it like it is.
    When my daughter was three her dad (my ex-husband) sent her a wooden puzzle in the shape of the US and the pieces were the 48 continental states. We still lived in Germany at the time, so a long time before we moved to Canada she already knew all the capitals and where the states are. (she may have forgotten a few since then, but she gets the basics).
    I think it’s a shame not to know basic geography, you need to know where things are to be able to relate to what’s going on there!

    • “You need to know where things are to be able to relate to what’s going on there!” I tried to explain to her that if someone told her a ship capsized in an ocean and she knew someone was on a cruise, wouldn’t she want to have some frame of reference to know if it could have been that person she knew? She didn’t think so. :-/
      Thanks for reading!

  13. Hysterical! My daddy asked me what state I was going to when I told him I was traveling to Dubai. Some people just need to get out more (or get better atlases).

  14. *SNORT*

    I live half a world away and I know the location of the Pacific Ocean.

    And I never professed to being any good in geography. I’m a sponge for useless information though.

    Happy Birthday to your geographically-challenged friend!

  15. :) You got me thinking. Maybe I should ask her what’s on the other SIDE of the oceans… Or maybe that’s too mean MUAHAHAHA!!

  16. Stacey says:

    How funny that she thought New York City was the capitol of NY, but missed Mexico City being the capitol of Mexico! :-) I am a huge geography fan – even considered minority in it in college, so this kind of thing baffles me! Good for you for standing up for us old people! 😉

    • I didn’t even make the NYC/Mexico City connection. That’s true! I’m not great at geography of the world, but the US, sure. I feel like it’s something we SHOULD know. I can’t imagine minoring in it though. That sounds intersting!
      Thanks for reading!

  17. KimP says:

    For the record, Noah is 12-1/2 and he knows that the ocean on the East Coast is the Atlantic. He also knows that ours is the Pacific. Tell THAT to happy birthday girl.

    ~The G is Silent

    • Thank you, Noah, for restoring my faith!! I tried to teach my 5yo this last night and he said it was too hard to remember and I said it’s a rule that if you swim in it, you have to know its name. And later he had to learn the rest. He was not amused, but no one’s going to be writing a blog post about him, I assure you!

  18. I’m sorry but you are wrong. It’s the Indian Ocean, not Pacific. 😉 I’ve lived in Florida my whole life and I think it was only ten years ago that I realized I live on the Atlantic Ocean. Well, I realized it before that, but I would always get confused. Atlantic or Pacific? Atlantic or Pacific? I DON’T KNOW! I am often horrified by my lack of geographical knowledge. It’s true what they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it. And I don’t use geography enough…or something. This post was awesome! And I totally loved the recycling comments. I’m going to use it as my excuse whenever I don’t know something!

    • I have made a comment to her more than once about recycling since this day. She keeps trying to justify it and I can’t stop laughing whenever she does! I’m laughing at her now :) She really is such a good sport for letting me laugh at her so much. Although, she laughs at me too, so it’s all good!
      Thanks for reading!

  19. Michelle, that is dumbfounding, no pun intended. Stuff like that drives me crazy. It’s basic 3rd grade knowledge. Makes me wonder what my kid will learn when he goes to school.

    • When I told her I wanted to play Smarter Than a 5th Grader she said no because she knew she’d lose!! I think it’s true that some stuff sticks with you and some stuff doesn’t. And I think it’s a matter of what you’re interested in too. Add to that some people are more into practical knowledge. I can’t change my own oil, but I can cite Internal Revenue Code regulations, for whatever that’s worth! But the oceans? I just don’t know how you don’t know that. It’s like not knowing your arm is called an arm.
      Thanks for reading!

  20. Kristin says:

    In high school – HIGH SCHOOL – I took a quiz on the countries in Africa and put Zimbabwe down thirteen times. And I didn’t even get Zimbabwe right. I can do most of Europe, the East and West of the USA, and several cities in Canada. But don’t ask me to arrange all the rectangles in the middle of our fine country. I can’t do it to save my life. I do WANT to be able to do it though, so there’s that.

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