When You Know How to Read Maps

Miss Spider knows the way home.

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Words written in my novel so far: 55,529

GPSes that I own: 0

You can think I’m kooky. But I like maps. I like navigating by knowing which way is north and which way is south and figuring out by messing up a few times the best way to get to a new place.

Or asking a local where the best taco restaurant is and then trying to get there by remembering that the old guy with one tooth said to turn at the bent elm tree near the Smoky the Bear billboard. My kids call this old fashioned.

I call it self-preservation. I also call it fun.

When my friends and I first got our driver’s licenses, we used to drive around Atlanta. We didn’t drive around to get somewhere. We drove around. We found new routes, happened to see boys, followed them, lost them, saw restaurants, stopped to eat, made wrong turns, saw big mansions, ended up in dangerous areas, and found our way out again. We didn’t need no stinkin’ GPS.

My husband’s other wife is an English chick named Madge. She is the Voice of the GPS.

He always takes her side in any dispute, even though she has been proven slightly glaringly wrong on more than one occasion.

With his old GPS, we had a whole 30-minute section of interstate that Madge insisted was actually a large lake.

And with his new GPS, we have re-routed in rather major ways… once, for the better; once, I was pretty sure we were going to end up in someone’s basement in a Silence of the Lambs-style redux.

We head out on long trips, and my husband gets wonderfully excited. Like, the kind of excited where no caffeine is necessary.

Him: I want some coffee.

Me: We just left. Can’t it wait?

Him: Coffee.

It used to be that he would start similar rants each time we traveled about how Starbucks needed to build flagship stores along the interstate exits. Then, when they did, he ranted about how difficult it was to know where they were located. Then, when the GPS started telling him, he would lean over to Madge and start pressing buttons as I shrieked and said things like, “Braking, braking. Red lights. RED LIGHTS!”

And Starbucks would pop up in fifteen locations, most of which were about twenty miles off the highway.

Starbucks searchesĀ are the only time he gets testy with Madge. The rest of the time, his irritation is directed at me, like when the cars start backing up about 50 miles outside of Atlanta, and I pull out a Georgia map and start telling him a route we could take to get around the mess.

Him: We can check the GPS!

Me: But I have a map. And I can read it. There are little lines on here that tell me stuff.

Him: But Madge has the latest updates.

Me: You’re trying to tell me that they’ve built a few new interstates since… 2011, when this map was printed?

Him: [Sigh.] Look. Madge says to take a right.

Me: Into the swamp? Madge isn’t very smart. I vote on taking exit 87. We don’t have off-road tires.

And then there are the times when Madge has said there was a restaurant in a certain location, and when we arrive, there is an empty building. Or a pond. Or scary people.

I know: maps are so 1988.

But I’m glad I know how to read one, and I’m glad I’ve had the chance to drive around and mess up and find my way again. Sometimes life isn’t all neat and tidy, and it definitely doesn’t come with an instruction manual. My advice? Learn how to read a map, and pull out Madge for a laugh. Make a wrong turn and wait for her to say, “Reconfiguring… reconfiguring… reconfiguring.”