We sold maps at the Mercantile where I worked, but most people wanted to look at them without actually purchasing them. One of the maps we sold was produced by the Forest Service and between Memorial Day weekend when the Mercantile opened and the middle of July, the price went up from $12.99 to $20. The other map we sold was better, easier to read, and only cost $12.95. When we ran out of those and the store’s buyer couldn’t contact the publishing company, The Big Boss man ordered some form Amazon, and the price jumped to $20. Just like the law of supply and demand I’d learned about in my high school free enterprise class predicted, we were suddenly selling significantly fewer maps.
One Friday morning, a large extended family came into the Mercantile. A boy of about 14 asked to see a map. The other clerk pulled one out of the display case where we’d started keeping them to prevent theft (our computerized inventory said we had two more maps than were actually in the store, so we knew some had been stolen) and manhandling by people who had no intention of buying. The boy said he was looking for waterfalls, but I don’t know if he was able to locate any on the map.
Does this map say “You are here”? he asked and he unfolded it.
Well, no, I said. If it did, the words would have to keep moving around as you moved through the forest.
The kid looked at me blankly.
I tried again. Only a stationary map will say “You are here,” I told him, but he continued to look at me blankly. I wondered if he knew what “stationary” meant.
Only a map that doesn’t move can say “You are here,” I said, and not a glimmer of understanding flickered across the kid’s face.
I gave up. I was too busy trying to watch out for shoplifters and helping people find sizes to explain that a paper map moving through time and space with a person has no way to update “You are here” to reflect where a person is at any given moment. With paper maps, explorers must figure out “You are here” on their own.