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March 17, 2011

Why Men Don’t Ask Directions

My Droid X was a pretty good navigator for most of the road trip Mary and I took. Sure there was the incident of the virtual off ramp when it insisted the best entrance to a hotel parking lot was directly from an adjacent Interstate – not! And there was the attempt to leave Atlanta Airport the wrong way on a one way street. All in all, the Droid did pretty well and there was no reason for Mary to suggest we ask directions so no arguments caused by my refusing – until we tried to find the southwestern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The paper tourist map showed the southwest terminus of the scenic route in Cherokee, SC. I spoke that destination to the Droid as we left Atlanta and headed north. Sure enough, as we approached Cherokee, even though the unnumbered parkway itself didn't show up on the Droid, the souvenir shops and outlet malls thickened and there were occasional highway signs for the Parkway. At a crucial intersection, there was no sign; as navigator I confidently made the wrong call to go right. We found ourselves on US 441 going south. Even though there were signs for Asheville, our destination for the night, there were no more Parkway signs.

"I must've been wrong," I admitted. "Let's go back and try the other fork." That was US 441 North; but no signs for the Parkway there either. I talked to the Droid about the Parkway; it told me we were 100 miles away, can't be right. We needed to use a restroom and had only half a tank of gas. "You might as well ask for directions," I said before Mary could make the suggestion. We were at a big gas station attached to an even bigger kitsch shop. Mary went in while I worked on a new problem, couldn't find the latch in the rental car to open the door to the gas tank.

In desperation, I was reading the manual from the glove compartment when Mary came out of the store. The good news was that she flipped the latchless gas hatch open by pushing on it. The bad news: "This road goes to Tennessee; we have to go back and take a right. That's the way to Asheville."

"But we don't just want to get to Asheville; we want to take the Blue Ridge Parkway," I objected.

"That's what the man in there said," Mary said, "and a woman agreed with him."

"But that's back the way we came," I said. "That can't be right."

"You go ask."

So I did. I took my tourist brochure for the Parkway (which didn't quite describe how to get on to it) with me to show the picture of it intersecting US 441. I told them I knew that US 441 North would bend over to Tennessee but just needed to know where it intersected the Parkway. I showed them the map. "Turn around; go back," they said. I kept arguing as politely as I could.

Finally, another man came out from the back. "The Parkway entrance is two miles up the road on the right," he said. "There's a great big sign."

"I never heard of that," said the first man.

"Me, neither," said the woman.

But the sign was there and so was the Parkway.

Which all goes to show what all men know: the closer you are to something, the less likely it is that anyone in a gas station will have heard of it or give you correct directions to get there. The second man was the exception which proves the rule. He must've been from somewhere else.



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