Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why men can't read maps, or drive, or do anything, really

The other day I was driving to Coldstream. This is how I did it: I sat in the left-hand seat while the Baron turned the engine on, maneuvered the wheel, pressed the various pedals that sent the car into a non-static state, flicked various switches on and off, steered around, over, under, or through various obstacles, and drove. I suppose you could say that that technically meant that the Baron was driving, and you'd technically be right. Anyway, I'm surprised at how simple driving was, and I'm looking forward to driving again in the near future.

The reason we were going to Coldstream was this: to give my brother his birthday presents - a cooking pot, a Larry David DVD, and some chocolate beer. We had the DVD so my brother would have something to cook in the cookpot, and we got the beer so that he'd have something to drink with it. We're logical like that. (I can't quite account for the beer being chocolate, that was pretty out there.)

I should mention that I had, in my lap, a small book. Another advantage of driving, of course, is that you get to read on the way. Unless you have to steer, that is. It's unfortunate that the book was a street directory, but that's life. Until I took up driving, you know, I used to think that streets were simple straight objects that took you to where you wanted to go. I used to think that you'd just aim the car, and keep on driving until something got in the way, and then you'd stop, and you'd be there. That's generally how it worked when I walked, anyway, and I almost never got lost - or at least, I never lost myself, which was the main thing, although sometimes the world around me got a bit confused.

Anyway, according to this street directory, the streets were anything but straight with us. They'd pootle along, in their streetly fashion, and then all of a sudden change their names. They'd loop around and back like tangled pieces of string for no particular reason. I'm one of those people who has to actually turn the street directory on its side to get the orientation right, so on some of these streets I was having to turn it upside down, turn my own head sideways, then meditate until I had achieved a Zen-like state of bliss, and then attempt to read the map. Pretty soon I had started doing advanced tai chi positions in the car, and I still wasn't sure whether I got it exactly right.

For instance, we'd come to roundabouts in the middle of the street, and I'd look in the map and they wouldn't be there. Some of the streets in the street directory would be orange, but I'd look for the orange streets in the actual street, and they'd remain their usual colour of asphalt grey. I mean, this was outrageous - how could we tell which were the orange streets if the people who built the streets didn't read the instructions on the street directory properly? At other times, it seemed clear that the people who wrote the street directory clearly didn't take in mind the people on the street. For instance, just at the intersection of X___ Street, and V_____ Street, a kid ran across the road, and it didn't say anything about that on the street directory. And another thing: it wasn't very far at all from Thornbury to Coldstream on the map, just a few pages or so, but when we drove it was almost as if we drove for kilometres and kilometres, and still didn't get there. Amazing!

But what ho, this driving lark is quite fun really. We'll be driving all over the countryside in a couple of days, and here's how I imagine it will go: we'll open up the windows of the car, and I will toss my hair in the winnowing wind while clutching a cigarette in my cool and poised fingers, as we speed far far away from civilisation. While the Baron drives. I can't see anything wrong with this plan.

1 comment:

Mitzi G Burger said...

I hope the Baron wore her dashing driving goggles and scarf. One can't be seen to be driving in ordinary day wear.

I too am a map-turner-arounder, I mean, tai chi navigator.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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