Trusting the MapReader

From The Navigator

A year post-Katrina, a group from our church was in New Orleans to help with rebuilding.  On our last day, four of us decided to journey to Houma, Louisiana, to check out another volunteer location.  Pastor Z was driving,  Pauline and Edda were in the back seat, and, of course, I was in the Navigator’s seat .

I don’t recall exactly what road we were on, probably I-10 or I-310.  I do recall that we were all tired from a week of work we weren’t accustomed to, but also fulfilled by the feeling of making a difference in the lives of at least a few people.  It was a busy Saturday morning and we were in unfamiliar territory, but I was armed with my map and some sketchy directions from our Houma connection.

We were staying with traffic on the interstate and approaching a “Y” in the road — a couple of lanes peeling off to the right and a couple more peeling off to the left.  I made the usual comment, something like “move over to the right” or “stay in your lane, but we’ll be exiting off to the right.”  Whatever comment I made, PZ questioned, “Are you sure?  I think we should go left.”  By now I am using the airplane landing gestures I learned from my father in an attempt to guide the van over to the right.  In my most calm Navigator voice I continue to say, “Right lane, right lane, right lane!”  But the steering wheel didn’t budge; he just couldn’t do it.  We came to a screeching halt — in the middle of the emergency area between the lanes curving right and left. 

The Navigator

“Why didn’t you turn right?”

“Because it feels to me like we should turn left.” 

 Then I said, “You didn’t trust me.”

Trust The Navigator

“Trust is a strong word,” PZ said back.  Edda and Pauline just sat in the back seat, quiet witnesses.

Since that day, I’ve thought a lot about trust.  It is a strong word.  When you’re the MapReader, it is important that you are trusted.  The relationship between the Pilot and the Navigator must include trust, or you’ll end up stuck in the middle, not knowing which way to go.

The MapReader’s Tools

My dad taught me that a pessimist is someone who wears suspenders and a belt.  But sometimes you just need more than one accessory to get the job done.

Using a combination of manual and electronic tools is part of the joy of traveling the back roads.  In our 1930 Model A street rod, we have a vintage AAA compass attached to the dash, right above the Garmin GPS.  I also use paper AAA maps.  I fold them and refold them, write on them, highlight our route, and generally use ’em up!  (Don’t worry — I recycle them into jewelry and other craft items, so nothing goes to waste!)  My favorite way to use the Garmin is to just have it on with no intended destination.  Remember — the journey is the destination!

Being a good navigator means knowing when to use what tools — when to glance at the compass and verify that you are indeed going east, or when to zoom out on the Garmin and see that you have a while before you get to the next town, or just leisurely fold and refold your paper map, looking for the next turn right you’ll need to make.

Learning to stay calm and utilize a variety of map reading tools will get you to your destination.  You will discover that being an active participant in the journey is worth the trip.  And I am optimistic about that!