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Your Family Photos Are Wrong

April 20, 2009 - Wes Burns
Ah, the family vacation.

Every family around has vacation stories. They usually fall into one of the following categories:

1) Best Vacation Ever!: These are the stories where the whole family loaded up in the van and were driving to California when the van broke down and Robert Downey Jr. stopped to help them. The rest of the memories are a blur but the family really built a bond when they all had to run away from the Mounties together. These vacations rarely happen and chances are your family does not have one of these stories.

2) Worst Vacation Ever!: These are the vacations that start out promising (Hey kids! Lets all go down to the lake!) and eventually transform into a rejected script for a National Lampoon's Movie (Hey kids! We're the Prime Minister's guests so stop laughing at his toupee or you'll start nuclear war). Chances are your family has at least one of these stories...minus the international intrigue.

3) Mediocrist Vacation Ever!: This is the bread and butter family vacation story. You went somewhere, it was a decent time, and then you came home. Maybe you bought a hat, maybe a novelty t-shirt. You have vague memories from time to time about being in a cave with a miner's hat or learning about pumpkins but all in all somewhat forgettable.

The common theme, no matter how awful/resplendent/milquetoast the vacation may have been, is the sheer volume of pictures taken. Even before the days of the digital camera (I'm feeling old) families exposed miles and miles of film to the rigors of inappropriate flashes, forced smiles and humiliating matching outfits. These pictures became the cornerstone of the vacation memories.

Remember that time we were all at Niagara Falls? Yeah, lets look at the picture.

Remember that time weird looking guy we saw at Yosemite? No...lets get the pictures.

Remember that time we all stood in a corner of a state at that Four Corners monument?

No, no you don't.

Oh, you might pull out some dated photo album and show a picture of fanny-pack wearing, neon sports bottle clutching children and adults holding hands as each stood in at the corner of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah; but this picture is wrong.

According to the National Geodetic Survey, an organization any dyslexic would assume is dedicated to asking people is worshiping the Earth is something that they would be 1) greatly interested, 2) somewhat interested or 3) not interested at all, the famous Four Corners marker is about 2.5 miles west of where it should be.

The NGS is blaming a surveyor error that occurred in 1868 for the dislocated marker. Personally, I think its a bit cowardly to blame a surveyor for a minor error in a time and place where opium was still legal. The fact that he got within 10 miles is astonishing.

So an opium addled surveyor in the long, long ago has ruined your family photo by making you and your relatives stand in arbitrary corners holding hands for little to no reason. At least this is what the facts say. I say that the state lines are pretty much arbitrary to begin with so it should have little impact on how you remember that particular vacation. Your mother making you wear a shirt that said "St. Louis Does It 12 Months a Year" on the other hand will haunt you forever.

 
 

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