Asking directions

On a recent show, a caller who is a photographer and drives an old VW bus was complaining about not being able to remember directions he got from people on the street. Tom and Ray, why didn’t you give him the obvious solution–GPS? Was that just TOO obvious? I have one of those wonderful gadgets and am happy to report that my manhood remains intact–I am not longer forced to stop and ask directions! :slight_smile:

You would be surprised how many nice people you meet when you stop and ask for directions. I find it best to stop and get out of the car and meet the person face to face. Things tend to be much more civil that way.

One time I stopped at a country store and went in for directions. The whole town (very small town) was there enjoying an ice cream social. They invited me in and I had a great time, and got good directions too.

If I had a GPS, I would have missed all that. BTW, GPS can get you lost too. Sometimes with tragic results.

Would you say this is a repair question or maimtaiance ?

Yeah it was about 11 at night in South Dakota and I was lost so I stopped at the only gas station I saw and asked directions. She was a nice lady but didn’t invite me in. I met her again a half hour later when I ended up at the same place again. About a 20 mile circle in the pitch dark. Maybe she was the whole town or maybe commuted.

I too have met many wonderful people by asking directions. I’ve also accidentally driven into Harlem, Newark, and been lost just off of Blue Hill Ave in Roxbury (eternal thanks to the mailman that helped me out).

GPS is a wonderful invention.

Many GPS devices just don’t have a clue.
In my neighborhood, if I see any out of state plate…they’re lost !
And 9 times out of 10 they point to that nasty little 5" screen on their dash…“says here I’m s’posed to be on 491 ( fka 666 ) north to Shiprock by now.”

This is not the published main route, just the in-city local streets. You CAN get there from here, it’s quite easy, you’re only one block away from the street you need but the dang GPS has no idea !

( if I see an out of state plate coming down the street I begin walking in their direction…sure enough :))

GPS is a wonderful invention, but people still need to have map-reading skills (just in case!), as well as critical thinking skills.

As but one example of the need for critical thinking skills, I offer the periodic news stories about people who turned directly onto RR tracks after their GPS told them to “make the next right turn”. Ummmm…yeah, but the GPS really had an actual road in mind, rather than the first place where there was no curb.

I really enjoy using GPS to find my way in unfamiliar areas, but you still need to use your brain and eyes in order to stay out of trouble and stay on course.

Amen. Personally, I prefer maps supplemented by a Mapquest printout. I’m “old school”.


I have only been using my GPS for a few months, but I still tend to be “old school”, like you. If I have the time, I first do a Mapquest or Googlemaps printout to take with me. This way, I have a good idea of the directions before the beginning of my trip–just in case the GPS is not totally accurate.

Then again, I have gotten some truly bizarre directions from Googlemaps on occasion, so no one approach is foolproof.

I guess that the way I do it is sort of a “belt and suspenders” approach, but if I have the time, it is a good assurance that I won’t go too far off course.

If you have a rough idea of where you are, and a rough idea of where you want to be, a compass can prove amazingly informative. The vast majority of roads the head of “in that direction” generally stay in that direction. Not all, I know, but most do.

Not in New England.

I have a little anecdote to relate, regarding the topic of getting directions, lack of map reading skills, etc.

Many years ago while on summer hiatus from college, my brother had a temporary job as NJ Turnpike Toll Collector. For his first few weeks, we was assigned to “entry” duty at night, at the toll booths in Elizabeth. On his first night, a car approached and asked, “How do I get to Florida?”.

Now, bear in mind that there are HUGE signs overhanding the toll plaza, directing entering cars to the northbound lanes and the southbound lanes. Most people with a few functioning brain cells would know that Florida is south of NJ (duh!), and thus, one needed to head south on the Turnpike. But, their question was, indeed, “How do I get to Florida?” and was followed up with, “How far is it?”.

Because traffic flow was very light in the wee hours, and because my parents raised us to be helpful to others, he then began a recitation including something along the lines of…“follow the NJ Turnpike South, cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and merge onto the Delaware Turnpike…after the short stretch of Delaware, you will enter Maryland via the Maryland Tollway (or whatever they called it in those days)…then you will follow I-95 through Virginia…in parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, I-95 is not complete, and you will be shunted to the old US Route 1”…and so on.

Well, believe it or not, he began getting clueless individuals like this about 3 times each week, with the inevitable…“How do I get to Florida?” and “How far is it?” questions. After a couple of weeks of facing people who had done absolutely no preparatory work on figuring out a route for themselves, he decided that it was not appropriate for him to be working harder at getting them to Florida than they were.

So–after a few weeks, whenever he was confronted with these questions, his standard answer became…“Straight ahead. You can’t miss it!”