Finding my way

By Steve Galea

I am reading a book that describes the way Indigenous people all over the world navigated without the assistance of map, compass, and their wives. And frankly, it has been a real eye opener for me.

For instance, the Polynesian sailors of the Pacific routinely did trips of hundreds of miles across the open sea to visit other islands by following bird migrations, the stars, flotsam and jetsam, and observing cloud and wave directions. 

As someone who can unerringly make his way to the yogurt section of our grocery store, purely by instinct, following hippies, and carefully reading the signs over each aisle, I found myself definitely relating to this.  

But just when I started to feel a kinship to these early navigators, I read that, in the southwestern regions of North America, warriors were known to cross hundreds of miles of wilderness by following verbal directions alone. 

This, I believe is where our similarities end. And I think this is where it ends for most men my age. Frankly, this is the main reason that we do not stop to ask for directions when we are lost. 

Oh sure, we recognize that we will be given good directions. But we also know that the minute we nod our head and say, “Got it!” after a set of clear and simple instructions, we will somehow end up in New Brunswick. 

All this is to say that we are not very good at processing directions. 

For instance, if, by some act of desperation, we were to stop and ask for directions, here’s probably how it would pan out.

The person giving directions might say, “Oh, directions to the hospital? You go straight down the road three kilometres, and you’ll see it on the right-hand side. You can’t miss it. There are all sorts of signs along the way.”

But what the average man my age hears is, “Yada, yada, yada…”
I’m not sure why this is the case, but it seems to be true. I’m also not sure why more research has not been done on this. The only thing I can think of is that efforts to do so have been quashed by the New Brunswick tourism people.

Women, at least the ones I’ve known, have no such qualms about asking for and following navigational directions – which is another reason why I think they are more highly evolved. 

I’m not sure why we men are so resistant to this, but I do have a few theories. 

My main one is that when most men are newly in love they listen intently to the object of their affection. And this means they will be given directions to places like shopping malls, dress and shoe shops, baby showers, your partner’s parents, and locations where they will be asked to wait outside and hold a purse.

Naturally, after you’ve been subjected to this for a year or two, your sense of survival kicks in, and you soon learn to hear “Yada, yada, yada” in lieu of actual directions. Or better yet, you avoid asking. 

And while this is helpful if you need to avoid shopping malls, dress and shoe shops, baby showers, her parents, and locations where you will be asked to wait outside and hold a purse, it is not so great when you are looking for the nearest hospital so they can hopefully save your eyebrows after a fluke barbecuing accident. 

Then again, New Brunswick is lovely this time of year…