Sunday, January 12, 2014

Solution to a Problem

We’ve heard the statement Men Don't Ask for Directions many times and most of us accept it as truth. And as a man I must admit I resist asking for directions unless I am absolutely, without a doubt lost with a capital L. From direct experience I know that the more times my wife tells me to get directions the likelihood that I actually will ask for directions is decreased. Bookies in Las Vegas might calculate the odds at a 1000 to 1 or greater. Any takers on this bet?

Which way honey?

Now that we have moved to acceptance that men don’t ask for directions the question becomes why it is true and how do we solve this monumental societal issue. Most people think the problem is because men have a self-image of being problem solvers and to ask for directions would indicate failure. There is a certain element of truth to that. Our image of prehistoric man is the ultimate provider, get that deer, hunt that tiger, and bring home the bacon. If he failed he and his family went hungry. But these ancient hunters probably conferred with each other to locate the best places to hunt and how to get there. They weren’t stupid, they were well motivated. They asked for directions. Either that or go hungry.

Men are proud of their accomplishments. I’ve got a bigger boat than you, my TV is 99 inches, or my computer has a “fill in the blank” feature are typical male comments. Driving is an extension of that attitude. I am a better driver than you, whoever you are. Faster, safer and I can parallel park and you can’t. I know several men who are exactly like that. They also go on more exotic vacations that anyone else. And have photos from a 100 megapixel camera to document of their exploits. Or a trophy deer head stuffed on the family room wall.

Failure can cause embarrassment and asking for directions from a gas station attendant or the clerk at convenience store is the ultimate failure. I’d rather ask Stephen Hawking how to solve a problem than Joe for the corner store which sale item is a better deal. I’d rather get advice from Stephen King than the clerk at Costco for a book recommendation.  Since we can't get in contact with Hawking or King we don't ask. 

I’ve read research that indicates that men and women find their way around using different mechanisms. Women navigate by landmarks: go to the Mall turn left and go down the street to the nail place etc. Men on the other hand utilize compass directions to find their way around: go north two miles on Highway 6 and then turn east on Route 12 and drive around one mile to the auto parts store and so on.

There are probably many studies and more antidotal evidence giving credence to one theory or another; Google has over 100 million hits on the question. Men not asking for directions must obviously be a pressing problem otherwise why would a Google search have such a large number of hits. In that mass of information I think I discovered the answer: Men don’t think they are lost. All typical male stereotypes lead to this conclusion. I am not lost and I will argue that I am merely taking another route to my destination.

“We are close, it is right near here.” Might be an answer given by a man as to why he doesn’t ask for directions.

Getting around is an adventure. Finding new places, driving in different neighborhoods is fun. Taking a hunting trip without going to Africa or Alaska is fun. It takes one million sperm to fertilize one egg; they are on an adventure and it was fun. Who cares if only one successfully made the entire trip?

Not asking for directions does have one big downside: it causes arguments. Every extra turn, wasted minute, missed appointment increases the chances of a conflict between the driver (man) and the passenger (wife).

Forget the cause, just eliminate the problem.

How? Gadgets. The solution is to embrace men’s love of gadgets. The solution already exists in phones, stand alone devices, tablets and preinstalled in cars which should be sufficient to help men find their way. Men: play with your gadgets, use your GPS apps. Don’t get or stay lost. But they are missing one key element to have universal usage.

The missing component from the GPS apps is a reward component. Just getting to your destination is not enough for most men. Every time the device is used and you reach the proverbial Grand Ma’s house you should get points. Every time you reach a location on time or without a disagreement the user should get points. Score extra points for arriving at that great new restaurant on time for your reservation. Points, points: that is the ultimate goal. Bonus points can be awarded if you use the devise before being told to ask for directions. And one more thought men aren’t going to ask Siri, after all she is a woman. Redeem the points for beer, books or uninterrupted TV time.

You can have the boyz over to watch the Super Bowl without having to get permission if you accumulate a very large number of points.

However, the real solution is to allow your wife, significant other, or partner to drive because driving while using gadgets is dangerous. Sit back and watch videos or sports on your gadget while someone else drives. But men, be careful not to become a back seat driver; you’re probably wrong and that might result in the loss of points. And God knows we (men) need all the points we can get.

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  1. I always prided myself on my direction finding skills. When the wife and I were bound for another city, I studied maps and city streets well in advance. There are obstacles unforeseen which can jam the gears of preparation. The big wrench is the dreaded DETOUR sign. Add the traffic that can cause and you can find yourself driving to the border of: "Why don't you stop and ask somebody?" The last time I gave in was because I didn't want to bear the brunt of the assault for being late to the wedding. I asked the attendant at a gas station where 4268 Wilhelm was. He asked, "You going to Rev. Dillard's church?" "Yes, we are." He pointed like he was aiming a gun. Laughed a bit and said, "Right there across the street." I could hear Maxwell Smart. Missed it by that much.

  2. Welcome back Warren! I believe I fit in nicely with your description of the typical man when it comes to asking for directions. But I also get to enjoy that wonderful feeling of satisfaction when (and if) I finally arrive at my destination unassisted. It may take longer, it may be a bit painful, but it sure feels good pulling to the curb at the end of the journey. To a safe journey for us all with as few bumps as possible along the way. :)

    1. So you like the adventure of getting to your destination, even if a detours happen.