Mapsing


" … a fate no Muse could ever sanguinely agree to accepting."

The Muse insists upon holding a paper map when we travel. Even so, we often leave The Villa having forgotten the requisite charts, which starts the explanation of why we have so many maps in that box in the garage. Before we're very far down the road, she'll notice the absence and commence a small fussing. My job if I'm driving will then become to find some place for her to purchase a map of the territory we're fixing to traverse. Gas stations, once reliable sources of high quality roadmaps, have become iffy outlets. Variety stores, drug stores, even supermarkets will likely disappoint. The essence of any search seems to lie in the unlikelihood of ever successfully concluding it. We search anyway.

The supermarket clerk expresses her regrets while I wait at the Starbucks counter where they're "pouring over" our choices for the day.
The drug/variety store clerk likewise declines the invitation. The clerk at the following inconvenience store, chosen because it doubles as a gas station (the traditional source of maps), wonders if The Muse has heard of Google Maps®. As I hear the recount of the conversation, I marvel at how The Muse has no blood on her hands from brutally slapping that counter clerk. Later, the TravelCenter® adjacent to the Interstate onramp produces exactly the map our Muse needs. As we'd entered that place, The Muse was heard to report, "If they don't have maps, we're screwed." I replied that being screwed was no proper way to enter any Interstate onramp. Fortunately, we were saved at the final moment from entering that Interstate mapless.

Why are maps such an essential (the definition of essential being: "Irreplaceable by cheap parlor tricks or any iPhone app")? Part of their essence certainly lies within The Muse herself, who perceives paper maps as irreplaceable, but perhaps more lies with the simple fact that they are so far irreplaceable. A decent map should allow flawless zooming in and out regardless of the quality of any signal. It should carry a fair amount of ephemera, references, notations, or other unexpected oddities which deepen and lengthen the strict definition of map. It should be capable of lying open, folded to a place, for hours without degrading any power source. They should also prove to be visually satisfying, from the graphic quality to the paper choice, they must be worthy of becoming imprinted upon, in the same way that a baby chick might imprint on anything due to its inherent uniqueness and proximity.

While we're driving, I might wonder out loud after the name of that snow-capped peak in the middle distance. The Muse rather eagerly references the map, naming two possible choices. She might then Google® the two peaks to recount specific stories. We no longer need stop at every historical marker. The better maps provide a brief of many historical events positioned in birth relative and denotive space. A paper map provides a useful index into a more useful internet search, not in lieu of one. How far from here to the next stateline? Google doesn't know. The paper map does.

Our road trips are punctuated with plaintive paper rustling. The Schooner's door pockets overfloweth. We often amend our planned trajectories to seek out this one minor essential before we mount that interstate onramp. Because we so often forget our maps, we have multiples of many states. I even have a 1940s gas station map of the state of Oregon, a version featuring no Interstates at all but still useful for those toodles where we're trying to recreate how they used to manage to get from here to there. The Muse seems disoriented without her map, dislocated and grumbly like she simply can't find her place in this world. The Circle K clerk who scolded her for not simply using GoogleMaps came closer to a sound beating than she could possibly know. She'd argued that The Muse might more reasonably go soulless onto that daunting Interstate, a fate no Muse could ever sanguinely agree to accepting.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved










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