“You. Are. Lost.”

Back in the old days, when I moved to a new city, I had to get a map. These were one of two things: huge, paper monstrosities that had print so small fleas couldn’t read it, or thick, chunky spiral-bound “Mapsco” books that would break your toe.

The paper ones often had the benefit of being able to see the whole state, even if you just needed to go a mile. And trying to fold it up provided hours of entertainment. I’ve heard that some obsessive people would actually pull over to fold them, no matter how long it took, can you believe it?

But I only did that a few times.

These maps also usually require the use of two hands, held at extended arm’s length. Physics problem: (m)map x 2(two hands) = hmm, who’s holding the wheel? “Watch out, Sparky!” Thump. Tears.

The Mapsco books are called by other names in other cities, but basically they’re all the same: big map books broken down by little squares, which theoretically match up to each other so you can seamlessly find your way around. In reality, however, each little square is just a four-sided path to insanity.

These were often the first things handed to new reporters. “Quick! Go cover that fire. It’s on grid F56AZ3493Z. ” So off I’d dash into the night, clutching my Mapsco, bouncing off aluminum trash cans, real-estate signs and fire hydrants as I desperately sought Tiny Square F56AZ3493Z.

Even when you found Tiny Square F56AZ3493Z, your woes weren’t over. You find your correct road and begin to zip merrily along. Suddenly, 200 feet later, boom! You’re off the page. You flip desperately over one page, only to find the little black line marking your road proceeds for about a half-inch, then takes a sharp turn upward. Boom! You flip again, but have to find the right square at the top to match up with your little black line.

Imagine this frenetic flipping, over and over, again and again. Then imagine anguished screams and a thick, chunky map book hurled out of the window, endangering puppies, kitties and the occasional tiny old lady waiting at a bus stop.

And what’s with this constant whining about texting while driving, anyway? You haven’t seen reckless weaving until someone next to you flips furiously through a map book precariously perched on the steering wheel, or a big paper one stretched across the entire front seat like a small tarp.

It’s a good thing we now have GPS units for when we move to humongous new cities where the roads grow wider each day and are intertwined like spaghetti. In Nashville, things were much less complex. This is how my GPS exchanges usually went there:
GPS: “Turn left out of your driveway. Travel 200 yards.”

GPS: “Turn left at the next street, travel 300 yards.”

GPS: “You have arrived at your destination, on left. Have you heard my new CD?”

So I figured, what better place to really need a GPS than Dallas, right? A shiny new satellite, way up in space, orbiting endlessly with nothing better to do than help me find my way around.

I even change my GPS voice to an Australian accent. A fresh start! I love Australia! This’ll be fun!

G: “Ton rahwt in fohr hundreed feeyt.”

Me: “Ha! Ha!”

G: “Yah mist yah ton, mate. No worries. Ton rahwt in fowyve hundreed feeyt.”

Me: “Ha! Ha! Love your accent!”

G: “You mist yah ton again, yah bloody fool. Oym dun weeth ya. G’day.”

So I figure maybe the nice, robotic American lady would be a little more patient. Boop! Boop! I punch in my address and hit the magic “Go!” button. I hear a small, tinny monotone issue forth from the unit.

GPS lady: “Proceed. To. The. Nearest. Road.”

Well, what the hell does she think I’m on? A river? I edge up three feet. She likes that.

G: “Turn. Left. In. Twelve. Hundred. Feet.”

Who the heck knows how far 1,200 feet is? The next light? Half a mile? Do you realize how long ago I took math? I punch the accelerator. I also realize I’m talking back to a small, black plastic box stuck to my windshield.

G: “Turn. Left. In. Five. Hundred. Feet.”

Me: “500 feet? That’s cool.” I start to slow down.

G: “You. Passed. Your. Turn. Go. Back.”

Me: “What? Whaddya mean? How could I have passed my turn? You said I had 500 feet!”

G: “Recalculating.”

Me: “Arrrgh!”

G: “Turn. Around. In. 50. Feet.”

Me: “I can’t turn around! There’s a concrete barrier!”

G: “Recalculating.”

Me: “What are you recalculating? There’s nowhere to turn!”

G: “I. Said. To. Turn. Around. If. You’re. Not. Going. To. Listen. There. Is. Nothing. I. Can. Do.”

Me: “I can’t! I can’t! There’s nowhere to make a U-turn!”

G: “If. You. Wanted. To. Badly. Enough. You. Would. Have. Found. Somewhere. To. Turn. Around.”

Me: “OK, OK, I’ll move that orange barrel and cut through that culvert.”

G: “Recalculating.”

Me: “Arrrgh!”

G: “Proceed. To. The. Nearest. Road.”

I grab her and wing her out the window.

“Reeeecaaaaaalculaaaatttiiiing!” she moans, voice dropping off into the distance.

Soon remorse overcomes me, not to mention my cheapness. I stop, back up and recover her scuffed little body from the side of the road. I admire her toughness. I’ll give her another chance!

Me: “Hi, G.”

G: “Proceed. To. The. Nearest. Road.”

Me: “Ha ha ha!”

G: “Turn. Right. In. Four. Point. Six. Seven. Three. Five. Meters.”

Me: “Ha ha ha!”

G: “Now. Turn. Left. In. A. Factor. Of. Eighteen. Divided. By. Pi.”

Me: “Uhhhh…”

G: “Turn. Left. At. The. Next. Road. That’s. Situated. At. A. Perfect. 76. Degree. Angle. To. The. Horizontal. Thoroughfare.”

Me: “I’m just trying to get to Target!”

G: “Proceed. To. Latitude. 32.9532. Longitude. 96.8446.”

Me: “Now you’re just being mean!”

G: “Ha. Ha. Ha.”

There’s actually a Mapsco store near my apartment. I think I’ll visit tomorrow.

About wordsmith1313

Now: Somewhat retired, although I don't do it very well. Formerly senior director of Communications and Marketing for the Dallas Zoo. Journalist. EMT. Writer. Breast cancer survivor. I love to travel, and will always return from a trip with a new friend or two. Those fortuitous meetings bring velvet to the rough edges of life.
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6 Responses to “You. Are. Lost.”

  1. Wanda says:

    At least Texas has real roads and highways, not these twisty little pathways with hidden entrances like Maryland. And the trees! You can’t see anything here for the trees!

  2. 3chordsaday says:

    Since I’m Map Boy (to you, anyway) maybe I could get work as a GPS voice that makes references to old-fashioned maps while engaged in new-fangling, to help people like you get over your mapbook-abandonment guilt.

    “OK, I’m looking at the inset map on page 87, and you need to turn left at the third street.”

  3. My GPS unit — a gift from one of our former Tennessean colleagues — has been a godsend for me in moving to Texas. The only trouble I had with it was when I first arrived was still getting used to the concept of “frontage roads” for interstates and the accompanying U-turn lanes at every intersection. I’d overshoot my turn or exit and would have to get in the U-turn lane to go back up to the next exit. Then, by the time I got to the U-turn lane a mile back up the road, the GPS would have calculated a different route for me and would have me make another U-turn. And on and on it went, me driving in circles. I bet I went ’round and ’round a certain section of I-10 at the West Sam Houston Tollway probably 4 times one evening.

    • Yes! YES! Here, too! Loop-de-loop-de-loop, over and over, because the GPS thinks I’m on the highway when I’m actually on the frontage road! Glad it’s not just me. Maybe I’ll withdraw my petition for a refund from Garmin…

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