Wrong Way Shapiro

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Larry and I met at a Purim party forty-two years ago. He was King Ahasuerus to my Queen Esther. All in all, it has been a successful match and a successful marriage. However, Larry has told me that if he realized how directionally impaired I was when he first met me, he is not sure if he would have pursued the relationship. In other words, if his Queen Esther had had to find her way to the palace, King Ahasuerus still would have been married to Vashti.

Larry is one of those people who is endowed with the ability not only to follow directions perfectly but also to intuitively know what direction he should go when lost. I don’t know if he is part bloodhound, but he knows when to turn right, left, or whatever and get us where we are supposed to go.

I, on the other hand, can get lost going through a revolving door. It doesn’t matter where I am going, I need specific, detailed instructions, including street names, recognizable landmarks—the Walgreens on the corner; the elementary school on the right; a Target store on the left—and exact mileage between all of them. And I would still screw up.

You would think things would improve with the invention of the GPS. Initially even that failed me, as demonstrated by my first attempt to use to navigate my way to a business breakfast south of Albany. The machine kept rejected the address I typed in, so I simplified the address to just the name of the road. The directions down the expressways were excellent. When I turned on to River Road, however, an annoying female voice—whom I already named Mappie— chirped, “You have arrived at your destination.” I yelled at her, “No, Mappie! I am not there yet! You need to get me to the building” I was now lost and encountering another problem. If there was a speed limit posted on River Road, I couldn’t find it. I didn’t know if it was 30 or 55 miles per hour. I erred on the side of safety and kept my speed to around 30. A couple of cars got on my tail and passed me, and I just kept looking for the building.

Suddenly, I saw a policeman’s flashing lights behind me. I pulled over, rolled down my window, and asked the policeman if I was speeding. He said, ”No ma’am, you were going too slow. You are a road hazard.”

“I am so sorry, sir, but it’s not my fault,” I explained. “It’s the stupid GPS! Mappie told me that I that I arrived at my destination, but she was wrong!” Thankfully, he took pity on me. “Look, lady, your building is a mile down the road on the left,” he said. “I’m not going to give you a ticket this time, but next time, print out the directions from MapQuest before you get into your car.”

Fortunately, Larry the Scout has been the designated driver for most of our married life. He was perfectly happy to drive while I would sit in the passenger seat, either reading a book or sleeping. After we retired, Larry and I started taking longer car trip, and Larry decided to give me more responsibility. On the way to Arches National Park, Larry insisted that I take out the map and keep track of the routes. Wrong Way Shapiro, who actually got lost going to my own apartment, found map reading a joy. Not only would I follow the map, but I also would plug in the GPS and accompany the two with one or two guidebooks. I kept Larry up-to-date on our location as well as geographic trivia. “We’re heading into Fruita, Colorado,” I reported. “Population is 12,724; elevation 4511 feet. Town is famous for Mike the Headless Chicken.”

I have unfortunately been known to rely too heavily on the route suggested by Google Maps without considering alternative routes. On a trip to Florida, Larry and I were driving up the West Coast from Sarasota to Dunedin. Google map took us on I 75 and west on Route 60, which put us right in the heart of Tampa and its gridlock. Larry insisted that he had told me that we were take 75 ABOVE Tampa and head west on 580. I either never heard him or his memory was wrong. The argument in our car could be heard all the way back to Sarasota.

Larry decided the only way to avoid future arguments based on the best route was to call up the directions on Mapquest before we headed out. I would then trace them on an AAA map. We used this combination on one of our last visits in Florida from the East Coast to Naples. We successfully navigated our way from Vera Beach, over the top of Lake Okeechobee (even finding a quicker route on the map not suggested by Mapquest), and down I75 to Naples. We made our left hand turn off 75, pulled confidently into the targeted community, and pulled triumphantly into the driveway. Unfortunately the wrong driveway. I had gotten the street name correct, but had written down the wrong house number.

Oh well. At least I didn’t have to act as the navigator for our plane back to Albany.

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