They’ll Drive Us Crazy (If We Let Them)

(He was a handsome so-and-so, in his prime, but he wouldn’t ask for directions, no matter how far off the beaten path we were. This photo is of my father, John J. Kelly, in 1931.)

I just heard definitive proof that men “Do not ask for directions when they drive.” Yes, it’s been a joke that’s circulated for years; it’s referenced on late night talk shows; but now we have the data: A recent Brit. study substantiates what we all knew. I could have told them that: My father could have been the driving force behind that stereotype.

We were a family who lived in a small, blue-collar town in heavily-industrialized Rhode Island. And because my father always said we had “to save for college,” we went on almost no pleasure trips–anywhere–just back and forth to school in my Dad’s Chevvy (he was principal at our town’s only high school; as such, he drove us to school each morning.)

If Mom needed to get clothes for us that weren’t available from the nearby Main Street shopping district, she and I took a bus into Providence. The only time I recall my father driving significant distances was when we exhibited at statewide science competitions (held in Providence) and then again when my older brother went to West Point, for it was there we visited him (West Point disallowed Plebes leave the school that first year.) On those trips I discovered just how challenged he was, in the driving department.

First off, he called every man “Jack,” as in “Jack, do you know where route 95 is?” Or “Jack, how do I get to Rhode Island?” I’ll admit: I found it strange that every man had that name. Even stranger, I wondered how he knew them all.

His tapping those same for information would only come on the heels of a heated “debate” with Mom, after we’d driven mindlessly for what seemed hours. In other words, he was clueless as to how to get us out of the region, poising us on the right track, but he‘d never admit it. I don’t recall him ever looking at a map. In fact, I don’t believe we even had any maps. Pretty ironic, really, in that he considered himself most comfortable in the realm of charts and graphs (he had a degree in chemistry and physics).

I remember one time when we crossed Bear Mountain Bridge in New York (the mountain looked menacing with its ice stalactites that hung from above), he took a turn he thought was correct, and we traveled for hours in unfamiliar regions that got less populated as we went along. He finally gave in when Mom demanded he “get some help.”

That’s when he discovered we were heading wrong, all right…all the way to Canada.

The man simply had no sense of direction, but he thought he did, and that got me to thinking: That’s the kicker….people believe they know what they’re doing–no matter if their track record proves otherwise.

And that’s why GPS’s don’t matter. In fact, the study whose link is below (the one showing men don’t ask directions) proves that though this instrument sits on the dashboard of one’s car, it is frequently relegated to “non-use” status, for men simply believe they don’t need it.

It’s superfluous….it’s annoying….you have to pump in information and await results. Why do all that when you know where you’re going anyway?

Now, I admit: They’re not without fault, for they can send one on wild goose chases (one once sent us to a bank that presumably sat by itself in a sea of 2-story homes), or to places that no longer exist. One nationally-televised incident involved a woman who blindly followed the directions of her GPS a few years back and ended up on a lonely stretch of desert road, so far out that transmittal towers ceased. She was incommunicado for two days and close to death, as she meandered around the desert.

Her experience taught her never to trust her GPS, again.

Do we have one? Oh, we’ve had two, but they misfire often. The current one tries to send us to Rt. 1, no matter where we are (it‘ll even send us beyond our plugged-in destination in attempts to reroute us to Rt. 1.) That’s when I start branding it as “demonic.” My husband’s gentler–he believes it’s ruled by some code he plugged in, inadvertently. No matter–we can’t make heads or tails of it, so we pretty much regard it as a fashion accessory for the car, like a person’s scarf. We don’t use it; it merely dresses up the dashboard.

And that’s why you’ll continue to see us go far beyond our destination (or miss it entirely), as we traverse the nation’s highways. We won’t use maps or ask directions…unless I’m driving, of course. And then, we’ll stop often, for asking directions of any multitude of people whose path I cross IS in my DNA.

And now, we know: We’re not alone in this; the Brit. data corroborates what I suspected all along. Click on link below to see study commissioned by Brit. company, Sheilah’s Wheels and feel free to tell us about the men in your life: Do they use maps or GPS’s or do they simply know where they’re going–at all times? We’re all ears. Comment section is below.

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A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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