Friday, September 16, 2016


Next week this time I’ll be headed out to mid-state New Jersey for my nephew’s wedding. It’s about a two-three hour drive for me, more or less. From where I am, it’s about an hour’s drive to Philadelphia, then another hour’s drive to get through Philadelphia, depending on the state of the Schuylkill Expressway. Under normal conditions I’d drive down for the wedding and reception and then just come home, but the nephew’s getting married at 5:30 in the afternoon, so I booked a hotel room down there. No way in hell I’m facing Philly traffic in the dark after a full day of revelry.

Since I don’t have a cell phone or GPS, my next step is to figure out a route to the place. I’ve been to Jersey plenty of times, but not that part of Jersey. It’s supposed to be right across the river from Philly. When I asked the nice lady at the hotel registration desk for an easy route from Philly, she told me to use the Ben Franklin Bridge. “It’ll bring you right here,” she assured me.

Good thing I doublechecked on a paper map. The Ben Franklin Bridge takes me into Camden. The bridge I want is the Tacomy-Palmyra Bridge, which meets up with Rt. 73, which runs right by the hotel. I can pick up Rt. 1 from the Schuylkill, which should bring me to the bridge and get me into Jersey with no trouble.

I should know better by now. You should never ask anybody for directions. I’ve driven across the country with nothing but a map, and believe me, nobody is capable of giving directions. Not men, not women, not people at information desks whose job it is to help you out. Not nobody, nohow.

I’ve been the ignorant tourist in places all over the country. I’ve asked locals how to get somewhere. Talk to four people and you’ll get four different sets of directions, one of which might be correct. I’m not looking for some obscure place. Most of the time I’m trying to find someplace well known, like a WalMart or a tourist attraction. Usually I get blank looks. “WalMart? Never heard of it.” With the WalMart sitting right across the street. “Oh. I’ll be damned. I never noticed that before.”

I don’t know if people just don’t want to be bothered and are trying to get rid of me, or if they honestly have no idea where they exist on the planet. I’m not constantly thinking about where I am at any given time, let alone how to get somewhere else. It must be jarring to have strangers walk up to you and demand, “How do I get from here to Point B?” And then you have to stop and think about it. Not only do you have to figure out how to get somewhere and then pass this information on to another human being, but you have to stop and think. That right there can ruin someone’s day.

Here’s a few of my adventures delivering flowers for Mother’s Day earlier in the year. It was raining, for starters, so I wasn’t in the best of moods. I had deliveries to make at a retirement community. I couldn’t find one address on my road atlas, so I asked at the information desk. The woman at the desk didn’t know where it was. “I’m a temp. The person who really does this job is at lunch.” I asked if she had a map of the community; most of these places do. She was sure they had one, but she didn’t know where it was. I walked into an office and asked a professional. The girl got me a map of the place and found the home I was looking for. Why is it people with no information are always sent to work the information desk?

Then I had to find an address on Farmersville Road. Pretty straightforward. Except there are four Farmersville Roads, one for each compass direction, and my address list didn’t specify which one. I picked the closest at random, but the house numbers restarted before I found my target. So I asked some people. They’d never heard of that house number. “Ours is 522,” the woman told me. Five minutes later she said, “Oh wait, our house is 225.” She didn’t even know her own address, let alone the one I was looking for. Her son consulted the GPS on his cell phone, then sent me down the road to ask somebody else. So much for helpful technology.

That’s just receiving directions. It’s no better when you’re giving them out. I was having lunch in a restaurant when some woman asked me how to get to Dutch Wonderland. That’s a well-known tourist destination out here, located on Rt. 30, just like the restaurant. “You go out on 30 and turn left,” I said. Others nearby said the same thing. “That’s 30 outside. Turn left out of the parking lot and go about half a mile.” No sweat.

Yeah, right. A woman asked for directions, but it was a man—husband, brother, I dunno—driving the car. We watched from the restaurant as the car pulled out of the parking lot—and turned right. Sure, 30’s a busy four-laner, and making a left is tough. He might have gone up to a light and turned around. However, it was all women in there giving him directions. To this day I believe he thought we didn’t know what the hell we were talking about, so he automatically did the opposite. Hope he enjoyed sleeping on the couch.

This is why, when I’m doing a major road trip, I stick to highways. They’re straight. Hard to go wrong. Unless you miss your exit. I’d better get printouts from MapQuest before I head for Jersey. I don’t want to have to call my nephew from Connecticut and apologize for missing his wedding.

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