Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Maps are back and I’m not happy about it

By: - February 18, 2023 6:30 am

I thought it was charming when millennials embraced vinyl albums making turntables, amps and waist-high speakers cool again.

Same when Gens X, Y and Z demonstrated a fondness for fondue, bell bottoms, lava lamps and shag rugs.

But now the kids have gone too far. The map is back. Yeah, the kind you can never fold back to its original accordion crispness no matter how hard you try. Even the classic road atlas is back, the one that always managed to have the one road you needed covered by staples.

No, just no.

Tech isn’t perfect, of course. One time, Siri led me down a long dirt road when I was already late for a speaking gig, leaving me to back out of a field of hog corn to course-correct.

Google maps, which for some reason offers voice directions only half the time, has replaced my old Mapquest addiction, which involved printing out the directions from your home to your destination in meticulous detail. It took me a few years to figure out I knew how to get out of my own neighborhood (steps 1-8) and didn’t have to print that part.

Did the young desk clerk snicker when I asked where I could print out my Mapquest directons? Yes. Yes, he did.

My Mapquest addiction died the moment GPS tech got me safely through Charlotte, N.C., where every street, it seems, contains the word “Sharon.” (No one knows who she is or why she’s such a big deal. I’ve asked.) Looking at my sweaty Mapquest printout while trying to drive wasn’t entirely safe. Instead, Google’s calm and commanding voice led me through the maze, never saying “go north” (as if I would know what that meant) but simply “turn right.”

And now I’m supposed to go back to a paper map? According to The Wall Street Journal, map sales are booming, up 123 percent in 2022 over the previous year. AAA (remember Triptiks?) can barely keep them in stock.

The return to maps is driven by younger folks who prefer traveling off the beaten track and exploring remote areas, which just tells me none of them have actually seen “The Blair Witch Project.”

They are “searching for a bigger picture,” not just following the soulless dictates of Siri, etc., said the Journal.

Like most Southerners, I’m oddly adept at giving directions although the recipients often appear confused.

When I lived in the country, I’d be asked for “directions to the main highway.”

“That’s easy,” I’d say. “You go about a mile til the road forks, and you’ll see a tobacco barn that’s just about falling in on your right. I remember priming tobacco to be cured in that old barn but nowadays most tobacco is grown overseas, which makes me wonder how the average 7th grader pays for their new school clothes anymore. What? Oh, yeah. So, you take a left and go about a mile and you’ll see a brick church on the left. A lot of members have moved or died so there’s only three people in the choir anymore, so they just wear their high school graduation gowns to save money and I don’t think most people really care. Go past the church and take a left just before you get to my cousin’s house with all the cats in the yard. He’s also got a two-headed calf, but we don’t tell just everybody that. How will you know it’s my cousin’s house? Well do you know of anywhere else with a two-headed calf? Go about five miles, there used to be a sign for the main highway, but somebody drove into it a few years back so you need to look down on the ground when you think you might be getting close…”

Now isn’t that more fun than reading a dumb ol’ map?

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].    

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