I had to preface this post with the above -- something I wrote for an AACA magazine.
Sometimes, a compass doesn't point north!
We were taking our first trip up the Dempster in the NWT of Canada. The Dempster is a dirt road that runs something like 430 mi. NORTH from the northern Yukon near Dawson to Inuvik on the Arctic Ocean. They first gas staion is mile 239. Another about 90 miles further and two at the end of the road. Wasting gas getting lost isn't a luxury one has.
We camped a little south of that first gas station. The next morning, coming out onto the desolate section of road, there weren't any obvious clues -- like sign pointing to Inuvik -- so I looked at the compass and turned the direction that appeared closest to North.
Wrong! About an hour later we passed some iron stained rocks and the unique sulpher odor of a particularly river. Hey, didn't we just see this yesterday? Yep.
Seems my cheap compass and the fact that magnetic north is in north central Canada had combined to make north to the east. I didn't stop to think and guessed wrong.
Now we've burned up two hours worth of fuel. I get about 250 miles per tank on that old '79 so two hours of wrong way plus 229 miles between gas stations doesn't look good. Fortunately, I had a couple of 5-gallon jerry cans on an extended back bumper. No sweat, right?
Except when I got to that gas station, they were out of unleaded! Needless to say, I filled up with leaded, not trusting my remaining 5-gallon can to get me to the next one to find it out, too. I knew a single tank of leaded wouldn't ruin the catalytic converter, but getting lost can be fun, except . . .!
Real men don't ask directions. There's that scientific stuff about men having a higher concentration of ferric oxides in the vicinity of their nasal passages so they can sense north easier. Then there is the genetic stuff about spatial orientation and hunter-gatherer reference ability. That may all be true, but the real reason . . . men have to get them from women!
Ask a guy for directions and he'll give you, "From Exit #21 on the Interstate, take highway 42 north 3.7 miles. Turn right at the BP station onto Barnaby Jones Rd. 1.1 miles to the 7th house on the right. Rusted out Plymouth in the yard."
But a woman? "From THE shopping center . . ." and THE is a function of where their favorite store is so if it's another woman on the receiving end, they're automatically starting from two different points “. . . go towards Millie's house. After a while, you'll pass Food Town -- don't stop, I really don't need a thing. Then you'll pass that darling little boutique where Georgette got that tacky gown for the wedding. Off white and it's her third . . . Really! Right after that, turn where the old fire station used to be. We're down that road just past the house with the Crepe Myrtle in the yard."
Ever watch a woman navigate? They can stare at a map for an hour. The wrong map! Ask one which highway to take when you get to Memphis. She'll stare at the NC map until you pass Little Rock. My favorite, "You should have turned in that last town we passed." And why didn't she tell you? "I thought you were taking a different way this time."
The new computer-generated maps provide a whole new set of divorce grounds. They start you at your house and tell you every little detail to Grandmas, including a running mileage and driving time chart. As soon as you pass the first the route point at 112 miles and 2 hours, 42 minutes, ask her what's next.
"It doesn't say."
"But isn't it on the route chart?"
"Yes, but it says 242 miles and 5:37 but I don't think it's that far. Besides, it's already noon."
This North, South, East & West thing is also totally alien to a woman. "The map isn't right, we're going the other way." I finally got a handle on North -- tell her, "It points to Nordstrom's. And "out West" where the buffalo roam seemed to satisfy them. At least until you get to California when it changes to the other way. I'm still looking for suitable references for South and East.
But you gotta love traveling with them. Who else would slip a Barry Manilow tape in the stereo just as you reach the snapping point in a 2-hour traffic jam? And then come bail you out of jail when you take a tire iron to the idiot that tried to cut back in after passing you on the shoulder of the road? I"ll write your song, you #*^%&~!"
Just revert to your old college exam days & tape a crib sheet to your left arm. Then tell her you're not sure you're going to make it to the next fuel stop. She'll sit there quietly, rocking back & forth to get extra mileage. Fanning herself with the map.
The story has been posted since October 2001; the 'repost' was to pick up a couple of typos and grammar errors after the article had been accepted and appeared in a magazine with national distribution and subsequently posted on the Internet. FYI, the magazine editor, am 8-time National Master Editor award winner, is female.
Yours is the first negative comment to either post in 3 years. ALL of the responses to the subsequent publication, including female, have been positive and saw it for what it was intended, HUMOR about the MALE stereotype of not asking for direction.
The idea originated from a passage about giving directions in the book, Anybody Who Owns His Own Home Deserves It [Library of Congress #62007809' Call #PN6231.S8 K5] by the late, legendary comedian Alan King in 1962 who, by the way, dedicated it ". . . to my wife, Jennette, who for fifteen years and 126 pages has taken all this with a smile."
It's true I'm male- and for some reason I think I'll find the right street just around the next corner when I'm lost. to stop and unbuckle my seatbelt, put the van in park, just seems like wasting precious time! luckily the women in my life trust my driving and sense of direction! they never complain and sometimes don't even notice that we've circled a place several times! as long as I keep great conversation going- everyone is too distracted to notice we're lost!