“The Knowledge” or How to Get to Know the Streets of London

I was driving with a friend just recently, and I got lost one night in the small city of Sarasota.  I just can’t get my bearings in the dark, and it reminded me of something I learned while living in London, England.

London is a huge city — supposedly 10 times the size of New York City.  And, in order for the taxi drivers to have an understanding of the serpentine streets, never-ending mews, and intricate lanes, they have to fulfill something called, “The Knowledge”.  In order to do this, they have to ride around the streets of London on a bicycle for two years to get “the lay of the land”.  Following that, they take an exam, and if they pass, they enter the rarified field of those with THE KNOWLEDGE, and can keep their profession until death do they part.

You tell them where to go, and they don’t have to consult a map, or call in to their dispatcher for help, or look at you as if you asked them if you could take a bite out of them.  London cab drivers know their stuff, and they even talk to you, particularly if you’re a foreigner!   That’s mind-boggling in itself.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been picked up by a cab driver in New York when you land at one of the airports.  It can be mind-numbing!  First, your driver hardly speaks English.  Second, they have absolutely no idea of the address you seek, and you’re lucky to arrive at your destination without having to yell out an expletive and jump out of the cab before you get to your desired location.

Back to “The Knowledge” and why I’m writing about it.  Because, while doing the two year bike stint, those potential taxi drivers are getting smarter.

A study of London cabdrivers shows they have a larger than average hippocampus, with size related to years of experience.  Isn’t that sexy, a larger hippocampus.  I’d give my eye tooth for one.  Really!  These guys are smart and they’ve proven that your brain and your intelligence can change throughout your lifetime, and you can shape these changes in your own brain.  When you exercise your brain, you release natural growth factors and influence neuro-transmitters which enhance your brain’s level of performance.  I hope this knowledge helps!

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