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Prairie Wool

Slow down and buy a map

We live in an era where we expect everything to happen at a lightning pace. People want to scale mountains, explore the universe and the ocean, drive the fastest, most powerful vehicle, and choose the quickest grocery line—just once. 

We read books and watch movies and television programs filled with speed, adventure, and thrills. I mean, did James Bond ever drive a Volkswagen? Or take the long way home? No. He sped along in a high-tech car with all the gadgets, accomplished his death-defying mission in an hour and a half, and ended by quaffing martinis in a ritzy bar, all without mussing his hair.

People are constantly on the move. Streams of traffic congest the roads, flights are taken worldwide each day, and, if we can’t travel physically, we travel via the Internet, where we expect prompt Wi-Fi access.

Sometimes we miss out on the sights when we go so fast. Although, if you’re like Esther and me, driving in Montreal and taking directions from an irritating satellite navigation system, you might get a super view of one sight over and over again. With navigational assistance, we went across the Jacques Cartier Bridge five times. Each time trying to get somewhere else. (This is where the advice on buying a paper map comes into play.)

That same navigation told us confidently that, to reach a bistro we fancied on the beautiful Ile d’Orléans near Quebec City, we had to turn right and drive five kilometres down a deserted country road.

“Your destination is on the left,” Google Lady announced in her smarmy, robotic voice. We gazed at rolling farmland as far as the eye could see.

“Is she crazy?” Esther spluttered as I pulled into a muddy approach surrounded by corn.

“You have arrived,” the voice assured her.

We also relied on Google Lady when winding our way through the busy streets of both aforementioned cities. Periodically she would blurt random information.

“In 400 metres, drive straight.” Well, what the heck. I was driving straight and had voiced no immediate plans to turn. I guess I might have glanced to the right for a moment. Did that count? Did she suppose she could read my mind?

Then, at several critical intersections, where it would have been nice to know which way to bloody go, she lapsed into a stony silence.

All that aside, sometimes it’s nice to slow down and smell the roses, as they say. I know I’ve been as guilty as anyone in my thirst for haste. (You can’t get a nickname like Wheels without it.) My first taste of speed was on the back of a horse and then, when a little older, while driving Dad’s old blue half-ton up the Far Town hills to pick Saskatoon berries.

In fairness, Dad started it. Our family would sit with pails of berries on our laps as he shifted gears and accelerated hard to give us a good start at the top. Then, he’d throw it in neutral, and we’d coast, exhilarating in the freedom of a good, steep hill.

Yes, we’re obsessed with doing things quickly these days, but perhaps it’s worth buying a map and meandering a bit. Although, to be honest, Esther and I enjoyed laughing at Google lady’s expense, and we’ll never forget the Jacques Cartier Bridge. 

Find Helen and her latest books at

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