Today is Naval Navigator Day in Russia!
On this day, in 1701 Peter The Great founded the School of Mathematical and Navigational Studies in Moscow to educate a new breed of naval navigators to support his growing navy. The naval navigators used to celebrate on both the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, which, in addition to allowing twice the amount of fun, makes sense since those are the days when navigation is a relative doddle because the sun rises and sets due east and west. In 1997, however, the Russian government (having, as usual, nothing better to do) decreed that we should fete the navigators on January 25th. It has occurred to me that this may be an attempt to counter-balance the complete disorientation of all of Russia’s students by noon since today is also their day.
“What is it about men and asking directions?”
~Dory in “Finding Nemo”
It’s good to know that there are some men out there who do take the time to think about directions because most of the ones I know think it is a big waste of time and a somewhat unmanly pursuit, the exception that proves this rule being my father, a.k.a “Lightfoot the Pathfinder” who still believes he’s more accurate and accomplished a navigator than Serena the GPS system.
Men and directions always remind me of that very funny (and clean) joke about the three wise men and Christmas. What if they had been three wise women?
1. They would have stopped to ask for directions.
2. They would have been on time.
3. They would have prepared the stable.
4. They would have helped deliver the baby.
5. They would have made a casserole.
6. And they would have brought useful gifts.
HRH certainly never wastes any time Map Questing anything, despite the fact that his work takes him to all kinds of horrifically complicated places like Profsoyuznaya or that place where the Sberbank complex looks like the Death Star—you know the one. At this point in his career, HRH is very much a back seat passenger, content to let his fleet of drivers figure it out while he barks monosyllabic grunts into his mobile like good minigarchs should. On the very rare occasions that we set sail for some event or other without a driver, the following conversation ensues:
Me: Where are we going?
HRH: To Sergei Bychiuk’s new country house.
Me: And where is that?
HRH: outside Moscow…out Volokalamskoye way.
Me: is that all you know?
HRH (exasperated) Petrovna!
Me: Okay..okay. Whatever.
At the end of Volokalamskoye Shosse, after the scarred earth confusion of the border between Moscow and the Moscow Region where the asphalt turns into dirt/slush, HRH pulls over and extracts his mobile phone.
HRH: Seriozh….privet…okay, I’ve crossed the bridge at the 8-kilometer sign….now what? (Indistinguishable grunts from the other end)…korochiye…straight to the 4-kilometer sign….then left, then right…what? A water tower? On the left or the right? On the right, then what? Okay, I’ll call you from the water tower.
Me: Could you not get your friends to send you a Google Map link or something?
HRH: Petrovna, Sergei’s country house is not going to be on a Google Map link.
Me: Sweetheart, Kim Il Jong’s house is on a Google Map.
HRH: Sergei wouldn’t understand that kind of request.
Me: What you mean is that he doesn’t know how to turn on the computer.
HRH: There’s the water tower.
The water tower, miraculously, turns up, but just as it appears, the bars on HRH’s mobile phone disappear completely, to be replaced by “No Service.” HRH lets off a stream of obscenities under his breath. I refrain from saying “I told you so.” We sit in silence for a moment surveying the landscape.
Me: Do you know the name of the cottage settlement where Sergei’s house is?
HRH: It’s something out of a book.
Me: A book?
HRH: Forest something…about stealing from the rich.
Me: Are you telling me Sergei Biychuik lives in a forest settlement devoted to stealing from the rich?
HRH: Robin Good!
Me: It’s called Robin Good?
HRH: No, no, the forest in Robin Good…what’s it called?
Me: You can’t mean “Sherwood Forest.” There is a cottage settlement called that on the wrong end of Volokalamskoye Shosse?
HRH: (slaps the steering wheel) That’s what I said, Sherwood Forest…that’s what it’s called!
Me: (consulting the Road Atlas I’ve smuggled into the car) There is no Sherwood Forest in the index.
HRH: Of course there isn’t! It’s…like private.
Me: Don’t you yell at me. My friends all live at normal places like Pokrovsky Hills or Romanov Pereulok…or Arbat Street or something that is on the map.
Me: What you have to do is go up and ask at that kiosk (indicating the only structure visible in the lunar landscape: a rickety construction with a faded banner proclaiming “SAUSAGES”) where Sherwood Forest is. They are sure to know something.
HRH: (mutters Russian curse words.)
Me: (fumbling with the door handle) Look – I ‘ll go and ask, I don’t mind.
HRH: (bellowing) STAY IN THE CAR!!!
Generally, of course, what happens at this juncture is that some retainer or other is dispatched in a Toyota Land Cruiser from Sergei Biychiuk’s house to lead us deep into Sherwood Forest.
And to my profound disappointment, no one there ever looks like Errol Flynn.
Ahoy There M’Readers!
Are you or someone you live with directionally challenged? What’s your favorite story about getting lost? Do you think every male child should be issued with a GPS system?