Internal Navigation System Busted


I’m on my way back from the shore when I make a mistake. I turn from 95 North, the road that will bring me easily home with my eyes closed, onto an exit, which brings me into the city of Philadelphia. The city I was smoothly bypassing I’m now driving directly into.

When you make a driving mistake, you react. How badly you have screwed up depends on the severity of the reaction. If you make a simple wrong turn in your town, you might do a good-natured forehead slap. Something that takes a few minutes to correct might warrant a “shit” or a “fuuuuck.” What I have done now, leaving the road that was conveniently bringing me home, as in it could have had a sign on it that said Damien’s Way Home, and turning into the city of Philadelphia, a city I am not familiar driving in, a city whose bowl of cooked spaghetti throng of highways would have made Patton turn around and go home and accept German occupation, a city where one wrong decision brings you to New Jersey, makes my gut to fall out and with it a series of seething remarks that question my abilities and intelligence.

Not only have I gone out of my way to up my level of stress and aggravation, but part of the upset is due to a bruise growing on my tender male ego. Men are supposed to be good at directions based on an internal navigation system. We’re supposed to know things about cars and know what all the things in our truck is for. We’re supposed to be able to open the hood and understand what we’re looking at.

But I don’t. I suppose my internal navigational system was left out of the congenital male gift basket I was supposed to get at birth. I also know nothing about electronics, could give less than a shit about expensive cars (like. Zero), and though I like putting things together here and there, I could go the rest of my life without touching a drill and die a happy man. These things I have come to accept about myself, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t frustration when one of these evident shortcomings is thrust in my face and causes me aggravation. Whether you are a man or a woman you can probably commiserate in some way.

Coming back from New Jersey, I ask the tool booth operator where to go and she directs me accordingly.

“Get across the bridge and make a right, easy as pie honey.”

“Thank you. Great.” I breathe.

When I get lost the second time I say it directly, though I know it puts me at odds with every machismo fiber in my knuckle-dragging being: I hate driving.

Oh, I like a few minute drive up to the store, flipping around to find the classic rock music which is now on the oldies station. I enjoy stick shift and the enormous novelty of being alone in a vessel rather than sharing with sixty strangers. But in general, I do not like to drive. This is possibly because I have spent close to a decade and a half taking public transport and walking. These are the modes of transport I feel comfortable with now, not being in a car. Though I find the terminology stupid, I deride myself as unAmerican and unmasculine.

It’s a rough day.

I approach a police cruiser. The man looks like a police officer, he’s young and has biceps that could crack walnuts.

“Good morning, Officer. Can you help me get back to 95 North?” I feel ashamed.

“I don’t know man,” he says. He looks annoyed. I have annoyed someone with a sidearm, biceps, and the power of arrest. “Hold on,” he says. He asks into his radio: “Need to get from here to 95 North. Any idea how?”

A woman’s voice comes on the radio spilling out directions quickly. He tries to follow, but neither he nor I can. I ask again what she said. He asks again. She sighs audibly and repeats the directions. I clearly didn’t pick it up, but then neither did he. Finally he says “Man, go ask those security guards.”

The security guards are two young men. They receive me with smiles and the harmless raised eyebrows that equate to approachability. As it becomes obvious that I am asking for directions, they both start shaking their heads with regret. They pull out phones and go to a map application.

“All right, you go straight up this road (he points) and make a left and then a right and then another left. Got it? That brings you to 95 West.”

“Um…you mean north?”

“Yeah…” he looks at his phone. And he clearly lies: “north.”

“OK, thank you.”

I walk to my jeep with the knowledge that I am going to have to buy a flat in Philadelphia. It won’t be so bad. My family can visit and I’ll just leave the car somewhere on the side of the road. As I begin to plan my new life in whatever Philadelphia neighborhood this is, a quiet voice pipes up from behind me. “Excuse me, you need to get to 95 North?”

“Yes, I do.” I am hopeful.

The woman is a small, young Asian woman. She’s dressed professionally and wearing a nametag around her neck on a string. She smiles.

“Don’t listen to those guys.”

“No?”

“No. You need to go down this road, make a right and then your second left, go across the bridge. At the bottom of the hill there’s the entrance to 95 North.”

I reach out my hand. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

It works. I hold my breath and soon I’m joyfully wallowing in the misery of bumper to bumper traffic on 95 North. I find the oldies station and naturally catch them at the very end of one of their “super blocks” of music and most probably just at the beginning of one of their super-duper blocks of bad local commercials. I leave gender philosophy on the side of the road, simply relieved that I will be out of the car soon. None of us got our internal navigation systems at birth. We should all feel gypped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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