There is currently a TV commercial on that portrays a paper road map as a huge monster preparing to attack. Somehow in the crumpled stages of attempted re-folding, the thing has begun to resemble a huge walking paper robot that is threatening the poor defenseless motorist on the road. And then the sleek, shiny electronic robot comes to the motorist’s rescue and destroys the Map Monster.
For decades, all we have had was the printed paper map that unfolds to about 24″ x 30″, and in a car, as the driver or his passenger-navigator opens out the map and tries to locate the section that shows where he is, the road ahead may be mostly obscured. Then as the map reader struggles to re-fold the map, either to its original size or to a more manageable section that can be traced and marked, the resulting mangled unyielding mass seems to resist all efforts to reduce it to a flat, obedient picture of the way to his destination. This can be very distracting, to say the least.
By contrast, the commercial would have us believe, if we shell out big bucks for one of the many electronic gadgets now on the market, we can simply tell it where we want to go, and it will talk us through every turn we should take, and even find the nearest gas station, restaurant, or motel. The small section of the road map that we need stays neatly “folded up” inside the gadget.
Now, I am one of the most directionally challenged people on the face of the earth. I have to turn the map upside down to read it when I am traveling south. In fact, sometimes I have to draw my own map to understand the directions I have been given. I am not sure I could use the electronic gadget if it did not talk to me, but only showed me a section of map to follow, since it would not work if I turned it upside down.
My solution is to find someone else to drive me to a large city or some place that I have never been. I am not so good at map-folding, either. I seem to recall that the last time I and a friend drove through the northeastern states, we had already driven through the entire state of Rhode Island border-to-border before I finished folding the map! I missed Providence completely.