Nancy Giles Needs Direction

Nancy Giles, CBS Sunday Morning contributor
Sunday Morning commentator Nancy Giles has always had trouble following directions so she understands the value of good ones.

Here's a headline from last month: "Mother Assaults Coach for Giving Her Bad Directions."

Clearly this was an inappropriate response, but when I read it, I couldn't help wondering, "How bad were those directions?"

Were they the "manly," no-frills, numbers-only-type? "Take the 495 to the 3 to 17." Huh? Where am I going?

And the map Web sites are even worse. I don't want to know that Junction 12 is also Valley Highway, not to be confused with Old Valley Highway. Give me the information on a need-to-know basis only.

"Proceed for "two and six-tenths of a mile." How can you watch the odometer and drive at the same time?

I like women's directions. Women give you landmarks to keep an eye out for, and let you know you're going in the right direction. "Go straight. You'll pass a dinky little construction site, a farmer's market, and a big intersection. Next corner, you'll see an oversized stop sign. That's where you'll make a right." Isn't that nice? Tension-free? Directions that are direct!

I have directional "issues." When I got a job in L.A. and suddenly had to learn how to drive, and get places, my father reminded me when we all used to go on car trips, I was never very interested in how we got there. "You were pretty content to be a passenger, kiddo."

That's me; just happy to be along for the ride. Directionless! Even the subway is a challenge, and I'm a native New Yorker. You're underground, and the stairwells lead to the street, and I've walked up subway stairs for years, but down there I can't tell north from west. I always walk up the wrong set of stairs, then once I'm outside, I still need a minute to reconfigure.

God bless GPS - those Global Navigational Systems. A gizmo where you enter your starting point, your destination, then you slap that sucker on your windshield and it tells you where to go. "Take 9 North, for twenty-six miles." A cool, unemotional voice. And a bell rings to let you know when something's coming up. Almost like a landmark. "Approaching Exit 12. Turn left at end of ramp."

But say you improvise, because there's construction or you know where you are and don't need the gizmo anymore - watch out. The voice gets snippy. "Turn around at first opportunity." "Turn around." "Turn around!" Then an angry silence. Hmm. The GPS can't take direction.