The Awkward Guide

In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself

The Awkward Guide To Maps

Maps the world over proclaim themselves to be helpful little tools offering us assistance in those tricky matters in life, like finding the nearest Public House, determining whether a nearby church is equipped with a tower or a spire, and ensuring that you don’t do something stupid like walk into a river because you mistook it for a footpath. A map is often idolised as the guiding light of the lost traveller – 1:25,000 scale salvation in fold-out form with a lightweight protective plastic coating and a handy key.

This particular pedestal is one which the map does not really deserve to have been placed upon. Anyone who has been in a situation where it has become necessary to utter the words “let’s consult the map” will have discovered that maps don’t help you to navigate anywhere except well on your way to domestic disputes.

As I’m sure you’ll all be aware it has recently been proven that the dinosaurs were not in fact wiped out by the unfortunate juxtaposition of the earth and an enormous meteorite, but instead had a tremendous falling out over the best way to get to the nice beach on the other side of Pangaea, which escalated to such a ferocious extent that dino-civilisation as they knew it came to a catastrophic end. In a direct response to this and a desperate effort to avoid suffering the same devastating fate, mankind has cleverly come up with a cunning alternative to maps – the Sat Nav.

Oh yes, in these modern and technologically-advanced days of smart phones, egg timers that look like pigs, and what my Mum refers to as “the Face Book”, the map has been cast aside in favour of its younger, shinier and more domineering cousin Sat Nav. We can now place all responsibility for getting us safely to where we need to be in the hands of a vastly superior navigational device.

There is no arguing with a Sat Nav – you tell it where you want to go and it tells you how to get there with such a disconcerting level of authority that it almost makes you “Turn Left”, even though the traffic lights are actually on red, just so that it doesn’t shout at you. Unlike the map, Sat Nav does not offer you a bewildering maze of route possibilities, but rather presents you with what is clearly the best way, nay, the only way for anyone who isn’t an imbecile, to reach your destination.

Sat Nav also removes all the minor safety implications of, for example, unfolding a 1;25,000 map of South Wales inside a car already overloaded with a stressed family, enough tea bags to protect a small house in the event of a flood, and a large inflatable boat. After all, Sat Nav would never compromise your ability to spot oncoming hazards by making you inclined to watch the little arrow moving along the little blue road instead of watching the actual road in front of you. Nor would it hurl itself suicidally from the windscreen and cause you to rummage around in the foot well with one hand on the steering wheel, whilst hurtling along at 70 miles an hour amongst three lanes of motorway traffic.

But what happens when you stumble upon a situation which Sat Nav does not have the mental acuity to deal with – an unexpected motorway closure? What if calamity strikes and a crucial section of the M4 is cordoned off? Sensing defeat, Sat Nav may attempt to take her own life by leaping from the windshield into the driver’s lap in an act of sheer desperation. The person in the back seat, who up to this point had been dozing quietly for quite some time, is hastily woken and told to “consult the map”. It is the map’s chance to shine in the face of Sat Nav’s failings.

But alas, it is not to be. Map reader’s confusion and frantic riflings only confirm the lesson that Duke of Edinburgh expeditions had once taught us – that maps are surprisingly unhelpful unless you already know exactly where you are, in which case you presumably wouldn’t need to be looking at one anyway.

So there you are, repeatedly circumnavigating the M4 roundabout with the map reader attempting to locate the correct bit of Wales on a large yet surprisingly unhelpful map, Sat Nav shouting muffled and entirely futile instructions from the driver’s crotch, and the whole family sweating nervously as the driver tries not to kill you all in a badly timed lane-change.

The trouble with mixing map-reading with familial relations is that navigating from a map requires a fair amount of interpretation. And there is quite substantial evidence that in order to maintain peace in stressful situations it is usually a good idea to avoid anyone having any kind of opinion about anything. Of course, map-reading also requires more complex skills like making sure you’re on the right page, holding it the right way round, and that you do in fact know which way is North. And if the dinosaurs have taught us anything, it’s surely that an inability to master these testing skills can be fatal on an impressively large scale.


The Awkward Guide accepts no responsibility for adverse reactions to the implementation of advice supplied herein. Side-effects can include: smug laughter, mild disdain, and temporary irritation.


One comment on “The Awkward Guide To Maps

  1. I know where I am going …………. Where am I going?


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