Saturday, July 5, 2008

My New Best Friend

My New Best Friend

The first thing I noticed about my new friend Mandy when I met her one Sunday morning was her voice. It’s really lovely, and she always maintains calm, soothing tone, the kind mothers intend to maintain at all times, if only we could.

Mandy’s a great traveling companion. On the road, I’ve been able to talk to her about any subject – mostly about the kids – how they’re doing, what they’re accomplishing, and how I miss and worry about each of them. It’s a mom’s duty to worry, and Mandy understands that. She is an excellent listener and doesn’t give unwanted advice. She knows I just need to vent once in a while. I’ve introduced Mandy to my sister, and they hit it off immediately. Now when my sister and I make plans to meet somewhere, she’ll ask if I’m bringing Mandy, too.

I discovered we like the same kind of music: eclectic – from the Pointer Sisters to the Kingston Trio to Enya to Broadway Musicals to the Beatles.

And when I feel like being quiet, Mandy happily occupies herself with her own thoughts. She likes to do mathematical calculations in her head. That amazes me. The only other person I’ve ever really known who did recreational math was my grandmother, who would add up large sums in her mind just for fun.

One of Mandy’s most outstanding qualities is her sense of direction. She’s like a homing pigeon. When Mandy’s in the car with me I don’t have to take my eyes off the road to squint at the Yahoo driving directions I’ve printed. She knows just which exit to take, and where to turn to find the right street and house number.

I should mention that I am directionally impaired. It’s genetic; my mother once took us (three daughters) on a trip without my father. We left from Phoenix, Arizona and somehow ended up in the wrong state. The shock of seeing the “Welcome to Nevada” sign reduced her to tears. We pulled over to the side of the road. She studied the map and re-traced her route, and soon we were welcomed to Utah. My father, of course, never consulted a map. He was a Navy man, and I’m sure he was guided by the stars. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t like to drive at night.

My husband prefers to drive when we go places together, and I prefer to let him. In fact, on the rare occasions when I do take the wheel and he’s in the car, it’s not pretty. “Why are you taking the long route?” he’ll ask. “Because I like it,” I’ll reply, giving him an icy glare, if my icy tone hasn’t already warned him off. One time we both left his office in separate cars at the same time. I’m sure it was a fluke, but I took a different route and accidentally arrived home before he did. I can’t remember when I’ve seen him so irritated. “I’ve timed both routes,” he said, “and I know mine’s faster! How did you do that?” All I could do was give an innocent shrug and slip inside, leaving him to fume in the garage.

Sometimes we’ll be in two vehicles, so we can drop one of them at the repair shop. Following my husband is a challenge. He has been known to go through yellow lights and will admit that he occasionally has a lead foot. With me behind him, though, he has to slow down for the yellow lights and obey the speed limit so he won’t lose me, and it doesn’t do much for his disposition.

One friend finds this situation to be true in her marriage, too. In fact, she swears she won’t even drive her husband to the hospital if she thinks he’s having a heart attack. Nope, she says, she’ll dial 911 and give CPR until the paramedics arrive, because even in considerable pain and distress, her husband would complain about her driving.

And another thing about men and driving. When you ask for directions, they’ll often say something incredibly useless such as: “when you reach the service station, turn south.” That’s not much help when I’m already turned around and I don’t know north from south. Now, a woman would say: “when you reach the service station, turn right, and the first thing you’ll see is a yellow house with pansies in the front. Now, that’s not my house, but you’ll know you’re on the right street. Go another block and on the left you’ll see a red brick school. Turn left there . . .” When it comes to directions, it seems men tend to be mathematical and women are visual. That’s just the way we’re wired, I guess.

But back to Mandy and our road trips. Sometimes, when I’m driving, I’ll be lost in thought and she’ll startle me. “In two miles,” she’ll say, out of the blue, “move to the left lane. Then stay left.” Jolted out of my reverie, I’ll dutifully move to the left so I won’t miss the upcoming freeway division and end up in the wrong state.

I’ve had to travel to some unfamiliar locations for book signings lately, and fortunately Mandy’s been available to accompany me. It’s much more enjoyable to travel with a friend anyway, and she’s very familiar with most roads in our state. If she’s not, she quickly looks up the most efficient route and calculates how long it will take us.

We did have one slight disagreement last week. I took a different turn as we entered our valley. Mandy was sure her way was faster. “I don’t care,” I told her. “I’m taking 10th West. If you were driving, sure, you could take Main Street and go up Fourth North, but you’re not driving. I am.”

“Turn right,” she still said hopefully.

In response, I just turned up the volume on the Mamas and the Papas. Oddly enough, they were singing, “Go Where you Want to Go, Do What You Want to Do,” and I couldn’t resist giving Mandy a little smirk. She pouted a bit but our friendship survived.

My husband is quite relieved that Mandy and I have become such fast friends, and that she likes to travel with me. With Mandy by my side, he knows I won’t get lost; Mandy was his Mother’s Day gift to me. As you may have guessed, she’s actually a GPS system. And her name? There are a number of voices you can choose in the setup menu, and the one I like best is called “Mandy.” That’s why my new friend is named Mandy, and I never leave home without her.


Shirlene said...

My travel companion is named Sasha. We all adore her, even when she says, "wrong turn - recalculating." She is so very polite it is hard to become angry with her continual prompting.:)

Marsha Ward said...

You gotta love those cute little GPS units!

Shirley Bahlmann said...

Ha! I was believing it was a real friend except for how conveneient that she was there every time you needed her! I kept wondering what the tag was. You got me by surprise! Fun!

Candace E. Salima said...

Very cute, Janet. And my husband is one of the worst backseat drivers, so I feel your pain. But, unlike your friend, I do still drive him to the hospital. I've learned my grandmother's trick of tuning him out when we're in the car. Oh yeah, and I'm directionally impaired too. A GPS is the very next thing I am buying.

Carole Thayne said...

All this time, I was wishing for a friend like Mandy.GReat post.