I was in Eggleston Square in Roxbury this afternoon doing a little shopping at Skippy White's Record Store when I noticed a pedestrian wandering about from corner to corner between Washington Street and Columbus Avenue, obviously without a compass. "You look lost," I said. "You've got that right, friend," he replied. "Which direction do I take to Codman Square?"
"You're a long way from Codman," I answered.
The stranger looked up at the street sign and said, "But I'm on Washington Street, right?"
"You're on Washington Street, alright," I said, "But you're on Washington Street in Roxbury. That's a different avenue from the Washington Street in Dorchester."
"Am I still in Boston?"
I reassured him, "Indeed you are. The problem is, if you follow this Washington Street, you'll end up in Hyde Park in one direction or downtown in the other. If I were you, I would head that away toward downtown. At least you'll be able to catch the T and save yourself some shoe leather. If you take the Red Line to Shawmut you'll just be a few blocks from Codman. I wouldn't recommend walking to Dorchester's Washington Street from here."
The stranger looked puzzled. He asked, pleadingly, "Where am I?"
"Oh, you're in Boston," I said, "You're not that lost yet, but don't let the street names confuse you. There are at least four Washington Streets that I know of but there are probably more that I don't. Don't trust the signs. In Boston you have to poke about and find your way through trial and error. I was like you when I first moved here but I've learned my way around. Just get on the T and it will take you close to where you want to go, assuming its close to a T station."
"Where's the nearest T station?"
I pointed westward. "It's somewhere over there," I said. You'll hit a main-looking road that runs north south and you should follow that one way or the other as you feel inclined. You wander back and forth along a few one way streets with no clue where you're headed until you hit some stairs headed underground, Follow the rumble of a train on submerged tracks. Let that sound be your guide and you'll eventually find your way."
"Can I follow you?" he asked. I told him I was taking the bus through Jamaica Plain to Calumet Square in Mission Hill and once he was dropped off there he would be just as lost as he was here. "Let your conscience be your guide," I said, feeling like Jimminy Revere, ""You'll get where you're headed in the end even if it takes you all day. We've all done it at least once."