Once the mainstay of every American family setting out for a cross-country vacation, the map has become virtually obsolete. Now, instead of pulling out the TripTik so carefully prepared by AAA with the route highlighted in yellow or orange and little foldout side notes for side trips, the GPS (Ms. GPS?) has become the voice that leads vacationers, to say nothing of everyday drivers, on their merry way.
Sure, GPS systems are convenient and faster to use. But they have none of the magic, the on-the-road promise of adventure, or the colorful patterns and curious names you’ll find on a map. B. is a huge fan of maps — he can spend hours plotting out a trip, poring over the details, and finding at least three ways of getting from here to there. He has an almost instinctual knowledge of which way we’re heading at any given time.
Me, not so much. I do love the possibilities a map offers. And I am always in awe of the fact that someone actually created the map — without using a map. But my title of chief navigator (guess who the pilot is) is one I’d like to abdicate. To wit:
Full-size, foldout maps are the bane of my existence. I never seem to be able to control them. Just when I think I’ve folded one down to the exact piece of road we’re traveling on, it turns out that we passed that spot about 20 minutes earlier (like the time I was trying to find our location in California and we were already in Arizona). Unfolding and refolding only leads to a paper cut or two (sometimes resulting in a tiny spot of blood that I mistake for a town), accented by some choice language that eats up another few miles.
Once I finally manage to locate our location (usually pointed out to me by B. when we stop for gas), continuing to read and follow the map is like going the wrong way on a one-way street — I need reading glasses to see the map clearly, but I also need sunglasses because of the glare. So yes, I have actually had to don my sunglasses over my readers (the ultimate in road-trip geek chic). Not only do I look like a deer caught in the headlights, but wearing both pairs of glasses at the same time puts undue pressure on my allergy-ridden sinuses and creates undue snickers from B.
If that isn’t enough to take me off map patrol, how about this? While I can now follow the map’s details thanks to wearing both pairs of glasses, I can’t focus. Because reading while riding in a car makes me queasy. Between the sinus headache and the motion sickness, I feel so awful that figuring out which way we’re headed is no longer of any interest to me. I’m sure that I am headed straight to hell.
What usually happens next is that a) we stop to buy me some ginger ale, b) B. pores over the map and memorizes what he needs to know, and c) I get “promoted” to exit patrol, i.e., “Let me know when you see signs for exit 29.” (I can do that.)
My last confrontation with the map is trying to fold it back to its original state when the trip is over. All I can say is that it’s not pretty. (Picture Taz, that animated Tasmanian Devil character, in a whirl of mishap. That would be me.) I end up rumpled; the map, crumpled.
The alternative? Don’t even get me started on Ms. GPS and her know-it-all tone of voice.
Time for a latitude adjustment.
ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman