The Public Space
July 07, 2014
i’m not lost
by Ken Mayer
Unassisted wayfinding is an evolutionary imperative for those of the male persuasion. I think I speak for the majority of “man” kind when I say we hate to ask for directions. I believe we are trying to satisfy a deep and vestigial need to hunt, hence the obsessive searching for parking spaces or hogging the TV remote.
We dare not speak lest we reveal our presence to prey, so we remain silent rather than ask. Ultimately, maps and the Global Positioning System are a civilizing influence on most of us knuckleheads.
Hoteliers have long been aware of the phenomenon, so they install signs with a range of room numbers and an arrow that can be clearly seen upon exiting the elevator. This prevents embarrassing dad, since he can lead his tired and hungry brood, schlepping luggage and all, directly to their room without asking, as if he knew where it was all along.
Getting lost isn’t necessarily a bad thing because sometimes you find unexpected delights, but it’s no fun when you are in a hurry. So, how to find those hidden delights when time is tight?
In downtown Omaha, that’s where the “Walking Concierge” can help. A joint project of the Omaha Public Library, the Douglas County Health Department, the Downtown Improvement District, the Wellness Council and downtown businesses, it maps the location of lots of stuff you might need to do over the lunch hour.
Need to fill a prescription? Get some groceries? See a doctor or dentist? Get glasses or contacts? Get a haircut? Tailor a suit or dress? Buy a gift or a card? Walking Concierge has you covered.
Click this link for a poster-size version of a nifty map and list of goods and services, or visit the downtown library for a handy wallet card. Future plans include turning it into a mobile app.
While this may seem like advertising for downtown businesses, it really isn’t that, so much as it’s an encouragement to get out and engage in some healthy activity. Walking Concierge is a concise guide to where you can get the goods and services you need by walking a short distance.
Andy Wessel, community health planner with the Douglas County Health Department, said they noticed that a lot of people simply weren’t aware of what’s available, and many drove to their company parking garage, went to work and reversed the trip at day’s end without ever setting foot on the street.
One of the wellness coordinators at a big downtown business suggested this sort of purposeful activity that’s well suited to a walkable district.
Another fairly recent wayfinding aid are the signs sponsored by the Downtown Improvement District. The Downtown Omaha Wayfinding Project, completed last year, comprises 88 signs directing pedestrians and drivers to 27 of Omaha’s most notable institutions and attractions with directions and distance.
So fellas, maybe it’s time to hit the bricks and walk around downtown. Now you can amble, safe in the knowledge that you won’t have to ask for directions.
The Public Space
Ken Mayer is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant and adjunct faculty member at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He has served on the boards of The Nebraska Choral Arts Society, Downtown Omaha Inc. and Landmark’s Inc. Mr. Mayer has been a consultant and volunteer for Omaha by Design since 2002.