You know how the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz isn’t great on giving directions? “That way is a very nice way,” he says, pointing in one direction, but “it’s pleasant down that way too,” he adds, pointing the opposite way. Yup, that’s kind of me. Which is why, on B.’s and my road trips, putting the map in my hands is never a great idea.
Maps? You still use maps? We do. Sure, GPS is state-of-the art. But it has 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. 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. But 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.
Yet “maps and me” is a relationship fraught with caution warnings and orange traffic cones. 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 New Mexico and we were already in Colorado). Unfolding and refolding only leads to a paper cut or two (sometimes resulting in a spot of blood that I mistake for a town), accented by some choice language that eats up another few miles.
Once I do finally manage to find 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 (while generating undue snickers from B.).
And, while I theoretically can 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 — I end up rumpled; the map, crumpled. Score: map, one; moi, zero.
The alternative? Don’t even get me started on Ms. GPS and her know-it-all tone of voice. I don’t need her to tell me we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Time for a latitude adjustment.
©2021 Claudia Grossman