According to historians, the ability to read a map is a “bloke” thing premised on the fact they used to be the hunter; women on the other hand are more adept at remembering routes and therefore expend less energy returning to the same place. The male ability to find his way may also come from the likes of Boys’ Life that carried barnstorming editorial content “How to read a topographic map”. In my other half’s case it stems from years of being a road racing cyclist, umpteen holidays in the great outdoors with his family, circumnavigating London on a cycle to get to work and the fact that he sees “getting lost” as part of life’s rich tapestry.
I’m not mocking my other half for being a map geek or for not being afraid to take a wrong turn. In fact I am insanely jealous. Generally when I am called upon to map read it’s to figure how to avoid the gridlock looming on the horizon. That requires quick work which is an anathema to someone who has more of an Eeyore approach to such things. Map reading has reduced me to tears when I’ve been trying to get somewhere and only succeeded in getting us lost. I also suffered a panic attack whilst trying to get to a hospital via the Leeds gyratory system; I thought I was having a heart attack and had to pull over in order to get a grip. In contrast, himself has far more of an intuitive approach and the tension is palpable as he watches me turn the map so that the roads are on the same side as we are travelling. You can then cut the atmosphere with a knife when I quietly murmur “it was the turning back there that we needed”.
So, with our summer holidays involving a trek through France to the Alps, we hit a dilemma. Himself worked in France a few years back and so it was presumed he would do the bulk of the driving.
That left me as chief map-reader.
Alarms bells sounded very loudly in my head.
What could I do to avoid us ending up in Switzerland or backtracking to Belgium rather ending up at our booked destination? My suggestion about investing in a navigation system was met with a “if you think you need it go ahead and get one” which was just a more polite way of saying “over my dead body”. The proposal for getting a car phone mount so he could have the chap from Google Maps tell him where to turn right (your right or my right?) was similarly rebuffed. That left only one thing – that was for me to drive and him to navigate.
Driving off the ferry in a right hand drive car into a left hand drive country was initially scary but I soon realised it was no way near as daunting as the other option. As I mastered the cruise control himself was afforded the luxury of reading maps the size of a tea tray, his finger tracing the main route and figuring out where we should go if we hit bad traffic. All was good and peaceful as we sallied forth along the French motorways; but just in case the soporific effect of calm in the car enticed the map geek to fall asleep I made sure I kept a keen eye for points of interest enabling me to find our way back home.
Until next time, much sweetness