A Hole in my Map

By Rose Ann Sinay

I am directionally challenged. A long list of verbal instructions used to send me into a panic. As soon as multiple route numbers and four-lane highways were mentioned, my ears filled with cotton. Multiple directions – a left, a right, and another left – the words unconsciously sent my hands into a flurry as I tried to visualize my trajectory. I blinked, I smiled, I nodded at the person who was giving me information, but my inner thoughts drowned out the words. Street names, cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) . . . the second right at the third light after the fork in the road – I stopped listening as a lead apron descended over my brain.

“So,” I would say. “I take the road by Belk until I get to that great little bookstore with blue trim? Then, I take the highway on the same side as the Exxon station. Right?”

Early in our marriage, my husband insisted that I learn to read maps. I had never owned a car of my own. I relied on public transportation (or the kindness of friends) to get where I needed to go. Just drop me off at the mall, or the middle of town was all the direction I needed. He wanted me to be able to find my way around, not be taxied from place to place.

“You need to be able to figure out the direct path to where you’re going, and be able to find your way home without driving down every other road,” he said. And, of course, navigation skills would be helpful on our car trips together across country.

Even back then, I hated maps. Hit a bump in the road, and I’d lose my place. By the time I relocated the tiny little spot, we had already gone through it. There were plenty of tense moments as I studied the maze of red, blue and black lines (masquerading as highways) unable to find a single recognizable point, forcing my husband to pull to the side of the road to see for himself.

“It’s right there,” he would say pointing to a miniscule dot on the map as if it was as obvious as the pimple on my chin. “It runs right into I-95.” His finger slid a mere quarter inch across the page. I didn’t see it; I just agreed it was there.

“We’re right on track. Great job!” I said checking out the mountain range in the distance, looking for the exit to a Dunkin Donuts.

Even refolding the map was an irritating chore. It was like manipulating a flat Rubik’s Cube. I could never ease the massive paper back into its original neat form. I stuffed it under the seat, out of my view.

My husband quickly realized that he would always be both captain and navigator of his own ship – uh, car.

I made my way to and from my destinations by rote, and if anyone asked me for directions (they obviously didn’t know me), my response included landmarks such as: Charlie’s Market, the Peterson’s cow farm, or the road with the beautiful pear tree on the corner.

It got complicated when my children were old enough to be aware that Mom had lost her way to a new doctor’s office or sports activities in another town. I knew the general direction: a couple streets over from the mall, or next to the school. We always got there – eventually. We referred to these deviations from the norm as “adventures.” The wrong road was simply an opportunity to “get to know the area.” We would stop to pet the cows gathered by a split rail fence, or visit a baseball card shop while I got my bearings. Every ride became a game of I Spy. The winner was first one to spot the town hall sign or the school soccer field. It was only after I lost a hubcap taking a last minute swerve onto a road I recognized that my kids became suspicious. Instead of announcing to their father we had had a great adventure, they began to tattle: Mom got lost – again.

After my husband and I became empty nesters, I bought myself a cell phone so I wouldn’t miss calls and photos from my children. I soon discovered the phone had a wonderful app – Google Maps. All I had to do was type in an address or verbally ask for directions. A voice directed me, minute by minute, exactly where to go and whether I needed to get in the left or right lane. And, should I somehow miss an exit, it easily rerouted me right where I needed to go. I’ve been using this service for years, but I still get excited when the voice announces 500 feet, 400 feet, 300 . . .2, 1 – you have arrived at your destination!

When we take a long trip, my husband continues to highlight our route on the map. He’s a map man. He thinks the app has taken the challenge out of finding the way, like having to stop to ask directions when you’re lost. (He would have made an excellent pioneer.) Surprisingly, on the last couple of trips, he has asked me to pull up the “phone directions” to make sure we were on the shortest path. He argued that there was a better way to go, but I noticed he stayed on course – except when I talked him into taking the “wrong” exit – to get to know the area. After all these years, I have become a navigator – of sorts.

As much as I love my Google Maps, I’m glad it wasn’t around when the kids were young; when I toted them from place to place burning gas like it was water. We found more than just our destination; it was all about the journey.

About this writer

  • Rose Ann Sinay

    Rose Ann Sinay

    Rose Ann Sinay is a freelance writer newly relocated to Connecticut. She continues to write about moments worth remembering, graciously provided by family and friends.

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9 Responses to “A Hole in my Map”

  1. Tammy Rohlf says:

    I can so relate to your story. Everybody that knows me is aware of my less than stellar sense of directions. My kids soon realized once I said we were on an adventure it really meant that we were lost. Even now we laugh at some of the places we ended up so maybe being directionally challenged isn’t such a bad thing after all.

    • Rose Ann says:

      LOL . . . Why is it so frustrating to everyone else if we’ve made peace with our challenges? Sometimes it’s a gift!😁

  2. Diane Quackenbush says:

    Oh Boy this is my life too………….I especially laughed about the “bump in the road” been there done that! I find my self directionally challenged on the golf course also! Thanks for another trip down memory lane. Just love your stories, you either make me cry or laugh. Miss you my friend

    • Rose Ann says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Diane! Glad to hear I’m not alone in my “adventures”! Miss you, too!

  3. Kailey Konow says:

    I still remember the day I realized our “adventures” were actually us/you getting lost. Yeah it was fun… but I think that may have caused my present day OCD to always be on time… even early!

  4. Erika Hoffman says:

    Relatable! My husband loves maps too. Me, not so much. I used to rely on Garmin until I realized it took me out of my way on some routes and other times scolded me repeatedly to make a U Turn, when I knew better. All in all, though, the cell phone and its maps have been a miracle for the direction-challenged, like me.

  5. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your story is mine! My husband says I always have my map upside down. Laughed at bump in the road.

  6. pam martin says:

    Great Ro! I could have written this one also. I am right there all the way. From the first sentence to the last I was laughing and reliving some of my own adventures driving. As it is, the community I have lived in for 11 years is still a maze to me and if I make it to the clubhouse I am lucky.

    I especially loved the map. I to can not fold one and get frustrated and I think I even through one out the window. My husband read it and said you were talking about me!

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