Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 03.05.07
Stanstead, Quebec


Following driving directions: It's a man thing

The stereotype goes that a man will do anything rather than ask for directions. But what if he doesn't know where he's supposed to be in the first place?

Recently, I had to drive to Montreal for a business appointment at someone's home. I didn't ask for directions. Instead, I looked them up on Google Maps, which is actually more reliable than human directions.

Google Maps tells you exactly what exit to take, how far to drive and even draws the route for you on the map. Human directions tend to use phrases like "about a minute" and "turn right at the homeless man."

I printed the directions but unfortunately forgot them in the printer tray. This occurred to me when I was about three minutes out of town.

"Oh well," I said to myself, "I know it's right off the main street. I'll remember."

I drove on to Montreal.

It was a good ride in, on my own, no distractions, listening to Van Morrison - not exactly "Born to Be Wild" but good driving music. Van Morrison is one of the great musical mumblers, which means he's easy to sing along to; you can sing almost anything and you might possibly be right.

I got to the neighbourhood where my appointment was and looked at the clock. Ten minutes to spare. Not bad. I easily found the main road and started looking for the street I wanted.

Okay, so when I told myself "I'll remember," what I really meant was "I'll recognize it when I see it," because I didn't actually remember the street name. I just figured it would all come back to me when I saw it on the signpost.

I knew roughly where the turnoff should be and that it was a cul-de-sac (thank you Google Maps). I did remember the house number, though: 16.

I think.

The main road ended. Nothing had jumped out at me. The street name… it was sort of long… like "rue something-de-la-something." I circled around again. Nothing.

Then I saw it. The sign said "rue Toupée-de-la-Cuisine" (or something like). That had to be it. The house numbers were in the single and double digits and it was a cul-de-sac. Well, more of a big loop than a cul-de-sac, but still…

I drove up to number 16. Right on time. I collected my thoughts, walked up the steps and rang the bell. Nothing. I knocked. No answer. Uh-oh. What if I was wrong about the 16?

At this point I should tell you that not only had I forgotten to grab the directions (forgivable) but I had also failed to write down my contact's phone number (unforgivable).

So now, I had to find a phone booth, hope that my contact's number was in it, call her up, eat crow and ask for directions.

The neighbourhood was entirely residential. To get into a commercial sector meant getting back on the autoroute, navigating bridges, sure to make me even later. I found a phone booth. But it only had yellow pages. Same thing at a gas station.

I drove along the main road one more time to see if by some miracle a new street had been constructed since the last time I drove past. By now I had turned off Van Morrison. Somehow I felt I could search better without all that misty mystic mumbling. That, of course, doesn't make sense.

But nothing did by this point.

I started driving up side streets in search of a phone booth with white pages. I was talking to myself now, mainly things like "You flagellating gumbo moron! How could you be such a haybaling shoehorn moron! Flan cake!" Or something like that.

I turned a corner and there on the signpost was the name "rue de la Grand Souri." I heard angels. That was it! Low numbers, cul-d-sac. Yes!

Half an hour late. I parked and caught my breath before going to the door, wondering how to explain my lateness: caught in traffic or the truth?

A woman answered. I introduced myself and asked if my contact was home.

"But she's in Quebec City. She's not expecting you until tomorrow."

It was a pleasant drive home.