I like helping people, especially those who look lost while finding their way around the city. Ma has always cautioned us when helping strangers, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know when someone is truly lost or just fibbing.
On many an occasion, I’ve helped usually women (young and not-so-young) clutching their phones or holding on to pieces of paper and indicating where they’re supposed to go.
Sometimes, though, I meet people who say they need to go to a certain building, but they can’t pinpoint exactly where it’s located. “What’s the nearest landmark,” I’d usually ask (because that’s what ma taught us when we were growing up). Instead of replying, they’d say, “We were/ I was told it’s near . . .”
To reply with a vague direction such as “it’s near . . .” is never enough. That would be like looking for a needle in a haystack or a big lawn, if you prefer. Not to mention, you lose precious time.
Like I said, I generally like assisting people, but I still think they have to ask more specific directions from the person giving it to them and telling them to go to a particular location. This is the city and even though there are policemen around and lots of other passersby who may be able to help you, the responsibility of taking care of yourself and not getting lost falls squarely on your shoulders.
Anyway, to recap, the ideal way of asking for directions: “I’m looking for this building (street, shop, office . . .), and I was told the nearest landmark is/ landmarks are . . .”
If you can’t find a reliable passerby to come to your aid, proceed to a convenience store or a coffee shop, especially those that are crowded. That may seem counter-intuitive, to be asking for assistance from service people when they’re very busy at work, but that means someone else may overhear where you want to go, and that person can help.
Others who can lend a hand: street-sweepers, traffic aides, security guards.