If someone’s looking lost, are you a person who will offer to help?

(This article first appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail)

IF SOMEONE’S looking lost, are you a person who will offer to help?

What about if that someone stops you and asks? Do you shrug and say you don’t know, even if you do?

I like to think I’m someone who will help where I can, but in my life I’ve been all three.


There’s even a fourth type, that’s also been me. It’s the person who is asked for directions but isn’t sure, but really wants to help.

Sometimes I’ve pointed out where I believe the destination to be, only to realise after the person asking has departed that I’ve pointed them in the entirely wrong direction.

I’ve also discovered that running after this person while yelling and waving only makes them disappear in the wrong direction even faster.

So all that’s left is to hope that they figure out to ask someone else, or they have enough provisions to last until they’re rescued.

I walk everywhere I can, even when I’m out in the suburbs. As one of the last remaining humans who seems to do this, people in cars often pull over and ask me for directions, assuming I’m a local.

Often I don’t know and then have to put up with questions about why I’m wandering around a suburb if I don’t know where I’m going either. Basically the person is saying, “What has gone so wrong in your life that you’re an adult human who doesn’t have a car?”

Then there are the people who don’t believe that you don’t know, so will hound you for help. In the end I’ll just point towards what I hope is a main road and they’ll smile as if to say, “See? That’s wasn’t too difficult now was it?”

Half an hour later they’ll then creep around a corner, still lost and spy me, still walking. This time, they’ll pretend they haven’t seen me.

I’ve even been asked for directions out of a shopping centre car park. As it turned out, I didn’t know either.

Thanks to Google Maps what I now do if someone asks for some assistance is look up their location and destination using my phone.

It seems like a plausible solution, until you realise that if they were able to use a phone to navigate, they wouldn’t be asking you for directions.

So as well as trying to show them on a tiny map where they should be going, you’re now stuck giving a smartphone tutorial to someone who hasn’t yet worked out how to text.

Best of all is when I am lucky enough to be driving in a car and someone asks me for directions. If I’m not in a rush and where they want to go is close enough, I’ll give them a lift.

Well I’ll offer them a lift, but very few people are willing to get into a car covered in rust, held together with duct tape and hope, and driven by a bloke in a faded blue Bonds singlet and bent sunglasses.

Stupidity aside, the main thing I have discovered is that if someone asks you for directions, it often only takes a moment to help them. If it takes a little longer, so what?

They smile, you’ve helped, and everyone feels good.

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This article first appeared in The Brisbane Courier Mail: