My grandmother used to joke that it was a good thing that there is only one way to go when we are born, or there are those of us who would get lost on the way out. This joke was never particularly funny to me because I am one of those who would most definitely get lost.
On my honeymoon, I tried to read a map and guide Roy through Kansas City. The result of that trip was the first fight of our married lives. Fights over travel and directions have continued apace with every travel adventure we have taken. Most people fight about the charges on the credit card or the money spent on shoes or guns. Not Roy and I. Our fights frequently come from the fact that I told him to turn left when he should have turned right and now we are in a neighborhood which looks like a dangerous place to stop, roll down a window and admit we’re lost!
Maps were the original field of my inabilities. In final checks before we set off, Roy would say: Gas? Check. Suitcases? Check. Cash? Check. Map right side up? Check. I would have been much more insulted by this last instruction except that he was justified. I once guided him halfway through Denver before I discovered I was holding the map backwards and we were traveling pretty much in circles through heavy Denver traffic!
The introduction of GPS to our lives has improved things, but I find I can still mess up in giving directions even then. GPS and Google maps both speak directions, but Roy always asks me questions, anyway. “What direction is the next turn?” he will ask, wishing to be in the proper lane to react quickly. “Right,” I reply, pointing for good measure. “Okay,” comes his response, “you said right and you’re pointing left. Which is it?”
“Sorry,” I answer, “it’s my directions dyslexia kicking in. We turn left.”
“Now you’re saying left and pointing right,” he says, through gritted teeth. “Oh wait, there’s our street and we missed it.”
“Recalculating,” intones the GPS.
This year, we went to Germany and Roy wanted to go to places where his family had originated. That meant taking a car and going off some of the main tourist paths through the country. We took the car from the central train station in Brussels, Belgium, which didn’t look too bad until we contemplated driving through it.
“There’s a GPS on the car,” the young man told us with heavily accented English.
“Oh good,” Roy replied, “because our little Garmin won’t connect over here.”
“Yes, but don’t follow its instructions until you get out of the Ring,” he continued. “You want to drive out onto the Ring and then follow the GPS after you leave the inner city.”
We had no idea what he was talking about and judging from the expression on his face, the minute we left, he turned to his co-worker and made a bet as to whether we would have our accident while still in “the Ring” or if we would crash the minute we drove out of the train station.
Well, we made it to “the Ring”. The trick we couldn’t figure out was how to get out of the Ring. We just kept running in circles in heavy traffic, while the car’s GPS intoned in perfect British accents, “Take a slight right and then turn right.” It gave no distances, no road names and no clue as to which of myriad “rights” that were all along the street was the correct “slight right and right turn.”
In desperation, Roy pulled into a small side street and got out the Google Maps on his phone and plugged in the directions to southern Germany. The map loaded up and instructed, “Continue on this street for 1 kilometer.”
Feeling more confident, Roy put the car in gear and asked, “Which direction does it want me to turn up here?”
“Turn left,” I said, pointing to be certain and of course, I was pointing right.
“Take a slight right and then turn right,” intoned the car’s GPS.
It was a long drive through Germany.