Geography is not my cup of tea.
North, south, east and west are all lost on me.
In elementary school I learned to distinguish left from right by extending my index fingers and thumbs to form two “L” shapes. (The hand that forms a frontwards “L” is the left and the one with the backwards letter is the right.)
Sometimes I still have to use that trick to understand directions.
The GPS app on my smartphone is my constant driving companion, but that is no guarantee against winding up on Staten Island in New York when my desitination is near Camden, New Jersey. (True story.)
An extra 15 minutes –that’s what I allow when planning a road trip. I need at least that to compensate for the inevitable wrong turns and missed exits.
Two of my best friends, Katy Alfred and Brittani Bradford, would attest to my knack for getting lost. They’ve come to expect it when getting into a vehicle with me behind the wheel.
We became friends while attending Luzerne County Community College in 2010 and 2011. Katy and I carpooled to classes together. I picked her up in North Abington Township on my way from Overfield Township. We lost track of how many times we got to talking while travelling along Interstate 81 and, distracted, missed the Nanticoke exit. We often had to turn around in Nuangola.
Or worse: West Hazleton.
A few weeks ago, Brittani and I were on our way from her apartment in Wilkes-Barre to meet Katy in Kingston. On the drive, which should have taken no more than eight minutes, I realized the GPS was taking us in the opposite direction.
“Why are we getting on the highway?” I asked.
On this itinerary, there are no highways.
Glancing at the screen, Brittani posed a better question: “Why does it say the arrival time is two hours and 40 minutes from now?”
One GPS update, three wrong turns and 20 minutes later, we arrived at our destination.
Having revealed all that, I am proud of my ability to navigate the Abingtons without getting lost.
The area’s geography is a topic of confusion for many people – including those who live here.
After all, one might assume a highway exit labeled “Clarks Summit” would take drivers to Clarks Summit.
But this exit off of Interstate 81 brings traffic into South Abington Township.
One might also assume places with names like “Clarks Summit State Hospital,” and “Clarks Summit University” are located in Clarks Summit.
The university is in South Abington Township and the hospital stretches over the border of South Abington and Newton townships.
And contrary to popular belief, there is no Northern Boulevard in Clarks Summit; South State Street turns into Northern Boulevard at the South Abington Township line.
People speak of it as if it’s a town.
These bordering municipalities get lumped together a lot. But unless referencing the Newton Ransom Boulevard, Newton-Ransom Elementary School or Newton-Ransom Volunteer Fire Company, it is one or the other. Newton Township or Ransom Township.
A lot of the confusion over Abington-area geography probably stems from the 18411 zip code shared by neighboring municipalities. A mailing address may indicate a home or business is in Clarks Summit, but it could technically be in any of several places.
When my family first moved here from South Jersey about 22 years ago, I thought we lived in Dalton because of our 18414 zip code and Dalton mailing address. But our home was really in Overfield Township, with West Abington Township between us and the borough.
Another likely reason for the confusion is the odd shapes of the municipalities that make up the area known as “the Abingtons.” South Abington Township is the most unusual, wrapping around Clarks Summit and Clarks Green with an “island” set apart from the rest of the township on the other side of Clarks Summit. If you look at it on a map, tilt your head sideways and use some imagination, it kind of looks like the head of a shark about to swallow a fish.
You may be wondering by now why any of
Maybe it doesn’t.
But maybe that’s also the point. Another reason I think people get confused over Abington-area geography is because of how tight-knit the community is as a whole. The Abingtons may be comprised of 10 or so separate municipalities (depending on who you talk to), but the area is viewed as one community.
People here aren’t separated by borders. Our lives are as intertwined as our municipal boundary lines. That’s what makes being a part of this community so special.
And that is my cup of tea.