The map is dead. Long live the Navman

In the Sunday paper a couple of weeks ago was an article about jaded Ponsonby types upping sticks for new lives in the country. On her journey to visit one of these city refugees the journalist described driving into the Te Awamutu back country and praying that ‘the Navman doesn’t let me down because there’s no one around to ask for directions.’ (Sarah Murray. ‘See ya, city’, Sunday: Sunday Star Times Magazine, 7 November 2010, p. 15). Incredulous, I spluttered through my Weet-Bix: ‘Why not use a bloody map then!?’

Will maps such as this become obsolete?

Will maps such as this become obsolete?

But I quickly realised I was on the wrong side of history. In the pre-Navman world the absence of a road map might have been explained along gender lines. In preparing for a trip beyond city limits, the average Kiwi bloke used to stuff his car glovebox full of maps procured from the AA. In the ‘unlikely event of an emergency’ – getting lost – the male driver could rifle through his maps and eventually reset his course. (The idea of asking directions from a stranger was too humiliating and emasculating to even contemplate.) Conversely, in the same situation, the average Kiwi sheila thought nothing of pulling over to the side of the road and getting pointed in the right direction by a helpful local.

I saw how this works as a kid when, having successfully travelled the length of the North Island in our trusty Holden station wagon, we arrived in Mangōnui and were unable to find the summer bach we’d hired. Mortifyingly for him, Dad’s glovebox library had no local street plan. After driving aimlessly through the settlement – some streets had no signs – he finally conceded to Mum’s pleading to pull over. While she chatted to the stranger, Dad slouched in his seat, his manhood slipping away.

This valuable lesson in Kiwi gender politics will soon be denied to new generations. When even the testosterone-loaded stars of Top gear use Navmans to navigate through Britain, we can only conclude that the days of the road map are numbered. Furthermore, with the Navman directing us right or left, it is inevitable that our map reading skills will decline. It might well be that future Kiwi kids will view any of the (so far) 325 maps on Te Ara with total bemusement.

On the plus side, with the Navman up on the dashboard, there’s more room for lollies in the glovebox.

5 comments have been added so far

  1. Comment made by Helen || November 19th, 2010

    A frightening future, Ben, apart from the extra lollies!

    I hope though that you aren’t meaning to perpetuate the myth that women can’t read maps. As a non-driver, one of my road-trip roles is as navigator, and I’m an excellent map reader. Though, admittedly, I could do with improving my grasp of left and right when calling out instructions.

  2. Comment made by Ross Somerville || November 19th, 2010

    And the backs of those AA maps were covered in fascinating tourist and historical information to read out to placate the kids when the lollies ran out. That’s where I learnt most of my NZ geography.

  3. Comment made by Emma || November 19th, 2010

    Who can resist Navman’s diverse range of accents telling you to ‘turn left at the second exit & drive 800 metres’?

    I fell for mine straight away.

  4. Comment made by Ben || November 19th, 2010

    No, I certainly wasn’t suggesting all women couldn’t read maps. This was proved to me 20 plus years ago when Lis and I were on a cycling holiday. We reached an intersection where it was unclear what the correct direction was to proceed in. The map was pulled out, but we disagreed about its meaning, at which point I pulled rank and said I had a geography degree and we’ll go this way. A few kilometres down the road we turned around and headed along Lis’s way – she still brings it up at opportune moments.

  5. Comment made by Andy || November 25th, 2010

    one of the joys of travelling, driving anyway, is the ability to get lost, or at least take the long way round, relying on a map to get you to your destination only as a last resort.

    using a navman to get you from a-b means you’ll probably miss out on a whole lot of exploring and all those awesome, twisty, dirt roads that litter our backcountry.

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