Suburban Snapshots

Maps

Thursday, June 17, 2010

One of the reasons I knew Steve and I were a good match was that we could spend hours in the car together and not get on each other's nerves. We still take long trips together, he's great at entertaining Anna while I drive, explaining to her patiently 600 times that "Mama can't pick up your shoes, she's busy preventing us from perishing in a spectacular I-95 fireball." And while he hates that I drive the Merritt Turnpike like a stunt double in an Audi commercial, our trips are, for the most part, quiet and enjoyable.

I do the bulk of the driving in our family. This puts Steve in the position of Helpful Navigator, which apparently gives him the authority to commandeer both the heat and the iPod, and to complain that my leather seats make him slide when he falls asleep. He's also prone to leaving wadded up tissues in the door pocket and critiquing the efficiency and radius of my u-turns.

Since our dashboard navigator decided to leave for the big satellite in the sky, we've been using my phone's GPS app. It offers both graphical and text directions, and usually I'll glance at the map for bearings, then read through the list. My husband — my Helpful Navigator — insists on using the graphical map, ignoring the turn-by-turn.

Maybe a man can explain to me why it's preferable to hold a 3x5 inch screen up to the tip of your nose, zooming in and zooming out until you have no context for your location, then backing out, slide left, slide right, following the pulsing blue positioning dot, instead of just reading the conveniently sequential directions spelled out in plain English. Personally, I prefer my driving directions to not begin with "Uuuuummmmmm..."

Steve sits next to me looking at the screen like he's questioning Ouija board, tapping and dragging, and as I sense we're getting close I inevitably hear things like, "Hm." or "That's interesting." Translation: I'm figuring out how to tell Bren that we just missed a turn. Then he'll nonchalantly say that we need to backtrack, but if I attempt to u-turn in someone's driveway, he mutters something about "redneck" and "shotgun" until I find a suitably public area in which to maneuver.

This scenario repeats itself 9 out of 10 times we're traveling together using the phone's map program. His argument is always that by using the visual map, he's learning how to get to these places and committing them to memory, and that by reading the listed directions, I'm not really paying attention to where I am. There's probably some truth to that, but when I'm heading someplace new I don't need a geography lesson, I just need to get there, and all he's committing to memory are the various public parking lots available for reversing direction.

Here's where someone sentimental might draw the parallel between the complicated journey that is married life and our literal travels, which are usually fun, sometimes frustrating and rarely direct. Fine, I'll buy that. But it doesn't make Steve's refusal to read written directions any less Goddamn annoying.

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