17 Gas Stations by
(234 Stories)

Prompted By Car Trouble

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DISCLAIMER :  Not exactly a car trouble story,  more like trouble in the car.

The question is,  why won’t men stop to ask directions?

The answer may be in John Gray’s well-known book Men are From Mars,  Women are From Venus.   Or in another fascinating book on gender differences entitled You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation by Deborah Tannen.

Tannen,  a linguistics professor, coined the word  “genderlect”  to describe the cultural differences in men and women that are reflected in the differing ways they think and converse – in personal relationships as well as in public discourse.

Years ago I heard Tannen interviewed and she spoke of the male aversion to asking directions.  She told us when her own mother read the book she said to Tannen  “I thought it was just your father!”

An incident that’s become legend in my family happened on a road trip we took when I was a kid.  Although in those days we used maps and AAA Trip Tiks (remember those wonderful things?),   nevertheless that day we were lost.

“Stop at the next gas station and ask for directions.”,  my mother instructed my father who was driving.   He refused,  and so she started counting aloud.

After passing 17 gas stations my dad finally relented.  My mom talked about those 17 gas stations for years.

BTW  I’ve heard that women ask directions even if they know the way –  we just like to be reassured.  Sounds right,  doesn’t it?

Dana Susan Lehrman

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This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Gender, You Just Don’t Understand


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    Great story. Although I read a recent article in Scientific American that looked at personality traits in men and women and found that there is a LOT of crossover, so hard to predict whether a person identifies as male or female just based on those traits—but at the extremes, some traits are more predictive. Maybe asking for directions lands there! Sally thinks that is why her father’s DNA showed they took the long way through the Pamir knot over the Himalayas on the way from Africa to Europe……

  2. Marian says:

    Generally true, Dana. Women have the seeds of doubt, but men are certain even when they are wrong. I have learned that sometimes I need to ignore Dick’s navigation instructions after several wrong-way incidents.

  3. Suzy says:

    I love that your mother kept count of how many gas stations you passed before your father was willing to stop. That’s a classic! Of course now with GPS, it is rare that anyone needs to ask another human for driving directions.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Totally accurate, Dana. And I sure remember those Trip Tiks, which I could never read in time because “somebody” just kept on driving, even when we were clearly lost, often taking us miles out of our way.

  5. I am showing my feminine side, I guess, when I often look for reassurance that I’m going the right direction, whether in a car or on a bike ride on an unfamiliar route.
    This essay was worth its weight in gold just to be reminded of Trip Tiks! I also think it’s delicious how family lore (and family grudges) get incorporated longterm. Those “17 gas stations;” that’s a good one.

  6. . My husband Lenny does most of the driving and I take great pride in being the “navigator”. When we are at a crossroads, he immediately wants to stop and ask directions and I want to figure it out myself! In addition, I noticed when I am stymied and we do stop for directions, it is important who we ask. It’s anecdotal, but if we ask any man, he readily gives us information whether he knows it or not. If we ask a woman, she will quickly admit if she does not know.

  7. Betsy Pfau says:

    I still have some old Trip Tiks in my basement Dana. And Dan and I had one of our worst fights EVER over driving directions when he missed a turn and we got SO lost. Of course! Your story rings true for me.

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