By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I believe I can speak for most men when I say that most women not only want us to get lost most of the time, but that most of us actually do, which is why most women become so annoyed at our stubborn refusal to ask for directions that they have to tell us where to go, after which they want us to get lost again.
It’s a never-ending cycle, even though men generally don’t ride cycles because there is no room for their wives. That’s why they drive cars.
But now that we are in the summer vacation season, and it’s too expensive to fly anywhere, and with gas prices so high it’s unlikely anyone wants to drive cross-country, people will be forced to make trips to places that are close to home yet far enough away for the driver to get lost.
And the driver will invariably be a man, who will be sitting behind the wheel with a woman in the passenger seat, pointing to a map that clearly shows he is headed in the wrong direction.
Is this an accurate description of a situation that women have been complaining about since the days of Henry Ford, who of course was a guy, or is it a stereotype that, if you will pardon the expression, drives men mad?
To find out, I called Peter Hans, who not only is president of Resort Maps, a Vermont-based company that helps people stay on the beaten path across the United States and in Great Britain, and will soon do so in Puerto Rico, but who also happens to be a man.
In addition to the masculine connection, Hans has a lot in common with me: He went to Saint Michael’s College in Vermont (he graduated in 1983, I got out in ’75), he has a wife named Sue and he has two daughters. He also has been known to get lost.
"The stereotype is absolutely true and fair," said Hans, who has traveled extensively and lived in Europe for 12 years. "Guys are guilty as charged. I have a good sense of direction, but when I get lost, I don’t like to ask for directions."
Once, right after college, Hans got hopelessly lost – and he wasn’t even driving.
"Some buddies and I were headed from St. Mike’s to Boston, but the guy who was driving got on the wrong highway and we ended up in western Massachusetts," Hans recalled. "Nobody noticed because we were, after all, guys."
Now Hans owns a map company. That’s like a guy who flunked math owning an accounting firm. Still, his business is booming. In fact, on the company’s Web site (resortmaps.com), there is this testimonial from a man who was visiting Monterey, Calif.: "That’s great! Oh, I love Monterey! Now I have a great map of Monterey!" – Barack Obama, United States senator.
"Sen. Obama liked our product, although I’m sure he wasn’t driving," Hans said.
"As you know," I pointed out, "if another guy were behind the wheel, he could still get lost."
"True, but I’d like to think a map would help," said Hans, who added that he is not taking sides in the presidential election. "We’d like to sell a map to John McCain, too," he said.
I told Hans the story of the guy whose car collided with mine at an intersection last year because he was lost and his GPS told him to turn left going the wrong way down a one-way street.
"I think GPS stands for Guy Positioning System," I said.
"The technology is good," Hans said, "but sometimes the users aren’t."
Interestingly, Hans’ wife thinks that when it comes to navigation, women are even worse than men.
"Most people think men are bad, but I think it’s the opposite," said Sue Hans. "I’m terrible with directions. In fact, I have to look to Peter for help."
"You’re in big trouble," I noted.
"I could have used him a couple of weeks ago," said Sue, explaining that she and a girlfriend were driving around Montreal, terribly lost, when they stopped to ask directions of a man walking down the street. "He told us to take three rights and we ended up back in the same place," Sue recalled. "We kept going in circles."
"Don’t feel bad," I said. "Remember, it was a guy who gave you the directions."
"That’s right!" Sue chirped. "It was his fault!"
The lesson, according to Peter Hans, is that guys should always ask for directions but should never give them. In lieu of a map, he added, and despite the misadventure in Montreal, it also helps to have a wife named Sue. As my wife likes to say, "You’d be lost without me."
Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zezima