Once upon a time, the average person had a modicum of geographic awareness. Most had a Thomas Guide or Rand-McNally atlas on the back seat of the car. To navigate you had to understand the concept of multi-level spatial tiling (using the index) and compass directions, and you had to be able to select a reasonable route on the overview map.

Try the following experiment today. Offer to navigate for a friend and give proper directions like “turn north on Main St.”. I almost guarantee that they will ask, “Is that right or left”? The art of map reading now consists largely of an on-screen map which is oriented “heading up” and yet is probably ignored in favor of the voice prompts. If the satellite link is down for some reason, they will have no idea where they are, where they are going, or how to get home. They may even starve to death because of their mazeophobia (google it people, it is real!).

GPS systems are, quite clearly, the primary culprit for the spatial ignorance which so menaces our world. I would support a ban on them entirely, but as a professional geographer, I do quite like them from a purely academic standpoint, so am proposing a limited ban – only those with certified map reading skills would be permitted to use them.  I, of course, will prepare and profit from the certification test myself.

In truth, the decline in paper map skills can be traced back to the woefully misguided AAA TripTik, which converted the world into simple strips from point A to point B and when strung together, allowed even the cartographically impaired to successfully find their way great distances. I was always appalled that they would create this nicely bound set of maps, only to criminally deface them with a highlight pen. Even in this simplified map, they didn’t trust you to identify the main route and follow it unaided.

Since I suspect that many of you are cartographically challenged and will not support my noble efforts here, I instead propose a much more modest approach:

The third Wednesday of each month be formally declared as GPS Freedom Day, where the satellite links will be disabled. The people will be forced to learn the beautiful art of self-navigation using paper maps. As a bonus, the economic boom caused by the resurgence of paper maps will be tremendous.

We must do this before it is too late! Join with me and demand that your congress person co-sponsor the “National Paper Map Day” immediately. At the very least, you will benefit from a shorter commute time because most will take a PTO day and huddle in their homes rather than venturing out into the world unaided.