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‘I’ve seen that 7-Eleven before, dear’

“Are we there yet?”


“No, dear, your daddy thinks he’s in the Daytona 500. He just made his 10th lap around the block because he refuses to stop at the corner service station to ask directions.”


Sound familiar? Men have what they think is an inborn compass by which they use dead reckoning in finding their way in unfamiliar surroundings.


“Hey, I just keep the sun on my left shoulder when I need to go west,” says your typical male trailblazer. “At night, it’s the moon.”


Of course, public roads don’t always go east-west or north-south. And try keeping the full moon on your shoulder while driving on a mountain road.


To be honest, I’ve been known to refuse to stop for directions, stubbornly expecting to find the end of the rainbow marking my destination just around the next bend. More often than not, that rainbow turns out to be the multi-colored billboard I’ve passed five times before.


And five times Ginny has pleaded with me to stop and ask that nice man at the convenience store, who appears to her as an angel anxious to dispense directional information.


Women, of course, are stigmatized as being directionally-challenged. Ginny will tell you she has no sense of direction.


That’s why they invented GPS, right? So women could find their way without a man around?


That’s a rational assumption, but totally wrong.


GPS is for men.


Think about it: A GPS is an electronic toy, which automatically makes it a guy thing. Men fawn over black boxes with screens, maps and apps — devices they can play with as they while away the hours on a road trip.


And it’s not lost on me that a GPS unit invariably has a woman’s voice. Guys even give names to their playthings.


Now, I’m not one to be on the cutting edge of technology. Heck, I kept a basic cell phone for years until a new job forced me to get a smartphone.


Several years ago, I spent a day in Stanly County as a freelance writer. I covered three events at three locations. I had written out detailed directions to each.


My problem was, I forgot to tell myself how to get back home. Using my dead reckoning, I reckon I went about 20 miles out of the way trying to find the main highway.


“Hm,” I said to myself, “if I’m going to cover Stanly County, I’m going to need help.”


At first, I thought about a map of the county. But maps can be unwieldy while driving.


Then Ginny’s words some months before came to my mind: “Larry, will you buy me a GPS so I won’t get lost? You know how bad I am with directions.”


So that’s what I did — bought Ginny and myself a GPS unit. The nice thing about it was it could be moved from one vehicle to another.


I tried out my new GPS when I was driving to pick up a couple of grandkids from school. I typed in the address and Maggie — that was my GPS’s name — directed me flawlessly to school.


In Stanly County, Maggie led me faithfully to Misenheimer and Locust and Aquadale, then brought me safely back home.


I didn’t consider myself as less than a man for depending on Maggie. I just thought of me as having found my way.


A few years later, GPS apps had become standard equipment on smartphones. I used mine when delivering vehicles for car dealers.


My last delivery was from New York and my GPS had me motoring down I-95, through Jersey and Delaware and Maryland. It was rush hour and bumper-to-bumper traffic as I neared Washington, DC.


But my GPS saved me. As I neared the city, Maggie kept telling me to “Keep left.”


Not one to argue with authoritative female voices, I kept left.


As the left lane took me upward, I happened to look down at the line of toll booths below. I had taken the EZ Pass lane for drivers with toll passes.


“Uh-oh,” I said. I was driving illegally and needed to get back to the regular lanes.


Driving on the EZ Pass lane is addictive, especially when you can look right and see backed-up traffic on the interstate. But I found a lane that could take me back to the common folk.


By that time, the heavy traffic had thinned out and I was zooming along through northern Virginia.


Later, somebody, somewhere, was wondering why the heck the Maryland Turnpike Authority sent them a ticket for misuse of EZ Pass.


I’ll never tell.


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.