Directions – of all kinds – have never been my strong suit. I resist bowing to authority on principle and can’t read a map to save my life. If forced, I have to go ‘into the map’ and even then, the results are less than helpful. Why, even in London, with the help of the GPS on my phone, I have a tendency to take rather a bit longer than most to find the new pub.
In fairness, The Mom is heaps worse. She navigates by ‘feel’. If that doesn’t send terror down your spine, this will: on a highway in San Francisco, years ago, I was driving (not a good choice, I loathe driving) and The Mom was happily passengering, and navigating without the use of the map I had specifically purchased for just such a moment. Oh, I think the turn off is just up here, she’d say nonchalantly, and then when it came into view, six lanes over, she’d point and jump, shouting, ‘There! There!’. Since then, I have refused to drive anywhere unless she can adequately demonstrate where we are going in advance of getting in the car. Needless to say, we don’t go anywhere new that often.
You might think a reasonable solution to this would be to get a SatNav installed in the car, which I would very much like, but only if the voice is Snoop Dog’s. Because I’ve met other SatNav ladies and they are mean and judgemental, passive aggressively announcing that they are ‘Recalibraintg Your Route’ if you miss the right junction on the roundabout. Some are just too slow and only notice you’ve fucked up their route (which to my mind is never the most obvious one) well past the time you can do much about it. Over here it seems everyone is crippled without their GPS, but then given that the signs on the highway are quite broad and vague, it’s little wonder why. I mean, we went to Wales the other day and there were signs that simply said: The North. Now, I realise that this generally means places north of The Midlands but it’s not very specific. The North of England? Does it include Scotland? IS this the road I take if I want to go to say, Orkney? Stornoway? No help from those signs, forcing one to rely upon the mean GPS lady and her constant criticism.
My one friend and I now go walking – long walks, not just a shuffle to the pub and back. And she is a self-confessed ‘map otaku’. Otaku meaning the nerdiest of the nerdy, super geeky times ten. She plans out our routes (which is very sensible as, if left to me, I’d pick a place that seems nice and say with a shrug, Dunno, reckon we could turn left?) and then tells me where to present myself and on what day and generally what to bring. Incredibly helpful. And because we follow the wonderful walking paths in this country, they’re very well signposted. We normally follow the acorn signs, which I happily pointed out to The Mom when she came to visit and we went down to Exmouth, which, funnily enough, is where I’m going walking next weekend. My otaku map friend will turn up with her OS maps (Ordanance Survey maps for those not in the know.) They’re quite the things, too: I gave Crazy D some for Christmas last year and I hear he pours over them. They are incredibly detailed – listing all the most important things one might care to know about a given place, topographically: hills, inclines, old ruins, Olde Time ruins that are actually just grassy knolls, train stations, and pubs. The entire freaking country has been recorded in this way and is to my mind one of the best things the Brits have done in ages. Anyhow, my friend will consult her maps (she enjoys them as much as Crazy D) and I just look for the acorn sign. In fact, I’m fairly convinced that if push came to shove, I could probably find my way around the entire country using the acorn – though I know the acorn isn’t on all the signs, just the south west coast path I think. But it’s fairly hard to get that badly lost here – I mean, you’re usually only an hour or so walk from a pub in most places. And in the countryside, you can phone for a taxi pick-up in the most unlikely of places: the abandoned Indian restaurant at the side of the road? No problem, the local taxi company knows just what you’re on about.
Anyhow, I’ve yet to hear The Mom’ s tales of meeting Madame SatNav but I can only imagine she was ready to strangle the stupid thing by the end of it. The Mom prefers a carefree sense of joy when travelling by car – which is why I am the navigator at home. I can’t read the map very well, but I can work out when the turn-offs are coming up and have an overabundance of caution, meaning I insist she drive in the turn-off lane at nearly all times.
But anyhow, with the pool open and my desire to go nowhere that requires me to put shoes on, I shan’t think we’ll have much need of a map or a SatNAv this summer.