When we left East Harbor State Park in Lakeside, OH, we thought we finally worked the bugs out of our GPS system and decided to give it the ultimate test: Could it guide us directly to the Wal–Mart at 5555 Porter Road in Niagara Falls, NY, where we planned to spend the night?
We agreed we would follow the GPS’ instructions to the letter, no matter what Mr. Rand McNally said (he’s a little anal for my tastes. Sometimes, too many lines on a map are just plain confusing, don’t ya think?). I programmed the GPS and all seemed to be going well, until just after we left Buffalo. We were traveling north on 290. The GPS offered no instructions, neither on its screen nor in its haughty, female voice, even though it seemed obvious to me and Rand that we would soon take I-90 north to Niagara Falls.
“I don’t know, sweetie,” I began. “I don’t understand what she wants us to do. If we keep going on this road, we’ll end up back in Buffalo. I think we need to take I-90.” As I studied the map, our route seemed even more obvious.
“I-90. I-90. Definitely, I-90,” I instructed the Captain.
“You’re sure, Number Two?” he asked. By now, we had divvied up the duties on board with military efficiency. When the bus was in motion, Tim was Captain. I was his Yeoman and if he wanted coffee or a snack, I snapped to and got it for him. When we were stopped, however, things changed a wee bit, reverting to their natural state; Tim did the laundry and dishes, was free to tackle any Project Nerd duties as he saw fit and also took on all quartermaster responsibilities, keeping our bays fully stocked. I, of course, shed the Yeoman role the second we were no longer in motion. Still in my pink DKNY track suit, I loaded up my fairy godmother, (which, I understand, some people mistakenly refer to as a “martini shaker”) and in a silvery flash or two, was instantly transformed back into a Princess. Each time we hit the road, however (mainly because my bus phobia was triggered by all the bumping and clinking noises) I made sure all our belongings were stowed and locked, and all doors securely shut. I also took on the additional responsibility of bursar, dolling out the money whenever we encountered a toll booth (“Can’t you drive the bus in straighter than that so they can’t see we’re towing a car? It’s two dollars an axel!”) Lastly, and most unfortunately for us both, I had also been pressed into service as navigator.
“Why in the world do you want me to be navigator?” I had asked. “I have no sense of direction and I can’t read a map.”
“True,” Tim sighed. “But, who else is going to do it? Miles?” We both glanced at the poodle, considering. Even the fact that he was happily, if sloppily, gumming Morty’s head, didn’t seem to completely rule out the possibility. Still, ultimately we knew there was really no other way. I had to be navigator. Lord help us.
Now, barreling toward Niagara Falls with a persnickety GPS system to boot, I had to determine what to do. Soon, there would be no turning back. Not for a 40 foot Prevost dragging a Jeep.
“Yes. I-90. I’m sure. I just don’t get what she thinks we should do.” When we came to the point of no return, though, it became obvious; I-90 split off from 290 to the right. Tim easily made the adjustment. Still, in past such situations, Map Breath, as we had started calling her, had instructed, “Bear right.” This time, she was silent.
“She screwed up,” I said.
“No,” Tim mused. “It must be the map program she got that malfunctioned.” I gave him a sideways glance. Then, suddenly recalled I had programmed Map Breath myself with a man’s voice, specifically to keep the Lying Bitch company, hoping the promise of some libidinal satisfaction might get her to start telling the truth about our tanks. Somewhere though, in South Dakota it seemed, Map Breath had undergone a sex change. And, I hadn’t been the one to perform the procedure.
When we finally pulled into Chez Sam, Map Breath intoned in that smug way she has, “Destination.” I retorted, “Oh, so now you have something to say.” But, Tim was quick to point out, and rather excitedly, I might add, “She did get us here. Exactly to our destination!” Now, I finally understood what was going on.
“Why do you always take her side?” I demanded.
“What are you talking about?” he replied. But, I could sense the truth under his flimsy protestation.
“You… you’re in love with her!” I sputtered.
“What??? I am not in…”
“Oh, yes you are. I bet you want to leave me for her!”
“I’m not even attracted to her,” he insisted. “Although, if I did leave you for her, you’d never be able to find me,” he snickered. I was not amused.
“Why do you always listen to her and not me?” I queried, quite reasonably, I thought.
“I guess that is hard to explain, what with your stellar navigational skills.” I guess I deserved that. Only a few hours before, Tim had asked me to consult Rand to see how far we were from Buffalo. Reading all those little numbers along all the superfluous squiggly lines was blinding. Besides, I’m not a math wiz. Instead, I found the “distance scale” and determined that 15 miles was about the size of a knuckle. Five knuckles later, I offered, “OK. 5 times 15 is 75. But, it was really a little less than a knuckle length, so… we could be anywhere from 40 to 75 miles from Buffalo.” Tim rolled his eyes. Just then, I spotted the “Mileage between cities” chart at the top of the page. Why hadn’t I noticed this before?
“Oops!” I chuckled.
“How much more is it?” he asked.
“Actually, we’re only 22 miles away. Guess knuckles aren’t the best way to measure.”
“Apparently not yours,” the Captain muttered under his breath.
Despite my poor math skills, my nonexistent sense of direction and my total inability to read a map, I might have had the occasional navigational success if I wasn’t also as concrete as a garage floor. Only the day before, when I tried to leave a Target, I was stumped at the door. It said, “ENTER ONLY” then on the next line “DO NOT ENTER.” Enter only, do not enter? What the hell does that mean? I tried to get through the door several times, but couldn’t. I might be there still if I hadn’t noticed a lady next to me exiting through hers, which simply said “EXIT.” I turned and followed her out. Back on the bus, I expressed my outrage to Tim.
“I mean, if it had said, ‘ENTRANCE ONLY, DO NOT ENTER’ that might have made sense.”
“You were exiting, sweetie.”
“Yes, but I was entering the little alcove thing to exit.”
“Whatever you say, dear.”
If Tim’s newfound infatuation with Map Breath were just another insult to my “navigational skills” as they were, I would have shrugged it off. But, I felt my very marriage at stake.
“You shouldn’t be listening to her,” I offered. “I’m your wife!”
“But, you can’t read a map!”
“You drafted me for this job. I didn’t enlist. You get what you pay for.”
When we finally got to the Falls that night, we stood among many other couples, all holding hands, some of whom should have also been on their cell phones arranging rooms. Tim commented he could appreciate Niagara’s beauty, but couldn’t see what the big romance was. I was livid.
“Well, maybe you’d find this more romantic with HER. After all, you two have so much in common, like that whole sense of direction thing.” He protested, “She doesn’t do anything for me.”
“Yeah, right. That’s why you hang on her every word.”
“You’re the one I love,” he asserted, as he bent down to kiss me. I pulled away.
“I don’t want you kissing me while you’re thinking of HER.” He tried to give me a reassuring look.
“If she’s so great, why don’t you try to get her to live in a bus with you for a year?” I challenged.
“Uh… that’s what she’s doing, honey.” Oh, yeah.
I’m over it, now. Really. Only… every now and then, upon making a wrong turn, I still delight in Map Breath’s befuddlement, as I watch the question mark linger on her screen while she recalculates her metallic little ass off.