There are people among us who cannot find where they live on a map. Holy hell.
Reading the comment threads on the posts of popular television meteorologists is an adventure from start to finish. You click in with the expectation of seeing pictures of storm clouds and five minutes later you close the tab in distress while that little voice in the back of your head whispers "that is one person who deserves to have their face chewed off by a man on bath salts."
Oh, of course there are silly questions. The same people who complain that meteorologists can't get their forecasts right have the nerve to demand an answer to whether it'll rain on their street at exactly 3:11 PM in two days. Meteorologists have to field a litany of repetitive (and often illiterate) questions whenever a cloud pops up, let alone during a major weather event.
Wildly popular broadcast meteorologist James Spann runs a blog that covers every detail of Alabama's weather, and when he publishes a link to these posts on social media, people will ask him questions answered within that blog post. It is rage-inducing to watch people take the time to violently murder the English language in order to demand a personal forecast while at the same time refusing to click a link and read two paragraphs complete with pretty pictures.
It's well known that people don't want to read, but now we've arrived at the point where meteorologists have to tell people to plunk their street address into Google to find themselves on the map. Charlotte meteorologist Brad Panovich posted the painful reminder on his Facebook page in advance of Tuesday's severe weather in the Carolinas:
Everyone needs to know where they are on a map. No questions asked! Please go to [Google Maps] and enter your address. As kids we all had to know our address and phone number for safety as adults it's not too much to ask that we know where we are on a map for safety.
According to Salon, a 2006 survey conducted by National Geographic found that an overwhelming majority of young Americans—94%—were able to find the United States on a map. That's wonderful! The whole point of that article was to beat back the flawed idea that young Americans, at least, are so geographically stupid that they can't find the U.S. on an unlabeled map.
Finding things within the country, though, is another thing entirely.
It was painful sitting through basic meteorology courses and have to listen to college students struggle to name states and geographic features while giving map discussions. It's even worse to watch people—many of whom are middle-aged!—routinely ask their local meteorologist "where is Camden on the map am I gonna get the storms?"
I doubt any of this applies to you, kind reader, but in case someone accidentally clicked this while retweeting pictures to cure disease: you should know where you live. Know the general area in which you live. Know the shape of your county! Most counties outside of the middle of the country have funky shapes. It's not hard to remember. I grew up in Prince William County, Virginia. They taught us to remember it by pointing out that it looks like a dog howling.
[Images: author, Wikimedia Commons]