Joanne Palmer: Keep your map to yourself |

Joanne Palmer: Keep your map to yourself

In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at or

— One of the advantages of living in a very small town is there are only a very small number of ways to get lost.

Unless you're me.

I am frequently lost for the simple reason that I am unable to read a map. To be politically correct, I am directionally challenged. Whoever passed out the map-reading gene skipped me. I refuse to take maps offered to me. Why bother? This seems to catch people by surprise. They raise an eyebrow, cock their head and — this is really annoying — raise their voice as if speaking to someone who is hearing impaired. They yell, "TAKE IT. IT'S EASY — REALLY EASY."

No, no, no.

Please do not destroy a twig to print a map for me. Save the map for the savvy traveler who can decipher all those multicolored squiggly lines and the legend thing on the bottom that trumpets important stuff such as state capitals, rest areas and railroad crossings. Who cares? Tell me where I can find the best local watering hole and piece of homemade apple pie.

Lots of businesses are map happy. Cheery desk clerks at large hotels feel obligated to dispense maps to locate rooms. I do not want a map. I want a nice person to schlep my luggage to my room, where I'll find a soft bed and a warm cookie. Rental car companies love to complicate my life with a map to get out of the parking lot and onto the expressway.

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It is not my fault I have trouble with maps. I am the offspring of a directionally challenged mother. Airport parking lots were the worst. I remember her behind the wheel of her red Ford Mustang, shrieking, "Kids, kids, get me out of here." She never bothered to learn the name or number of any expressway. Instead, she navigated by billboards. To get from O'Hare International Airport to the 'burbs required a right turn at the Marlboro man billboard.

Of course, you know what happened next. One day the billboard changed from Marlboro to Calvin Klein underwear, and we were lost.

I don't interpret road signs the way other people do. In my mind, a road sign such as I-70E only means one thing: "I-Confused." I-70W should be renamed: "I-Lost."

But back to Routt County. Despite that fact there are no billboards — oops, except for F.M. Light's — getting around Steamboat is easy. What isn't easy is heading out for a hike sans map, oh, let's just say, around Pearl Lake. And let's just say joining me on this hike is the love of my life, who is equally challenged in the direction department. And let's just say after three marvelous, fun-filled hours of hiking, neither one of us can see Pearl Lake or, for that matter, even a puddle. Stomachs are growling, water bottles are empty and the insect repellent wore off a mile or three back.

Was I worried?




Whining, crying, agitated?

No, no, no.

I have a secret. A tried and true technique guaranteed to get help anywhere there is no cell phone reception.

I drop my drawers.


Drawer dropping works every time. At home, everything happens when I'm in the bathroom. The phone rings, strangers knock on my door, and the water boils over on the stove. Out in the woods, help arrives. In this case, a green forest service truck rumbled up a jeep trail we hadn't seen. Although we begged for a ride, the government employee only offered a map. The worst kind of map. A topographic map. Ugh. He even said, "TAKE IT. IT'S EASY — REALLY EASY." We refused and turned around to hike back the way we came.

It was easy. REALLY.