To give, or not to give… directions

Directions - PenguinAre you a person who will offer someone directions if they’re looking lost? What about if they ask? Or are you the type to shrug, say you don’t know, and if they persist just point anywhere, in order to get the person asking to go away as quickly as possible?

I like to think I’m someone who will help where I can, but in my life I’ve been all three.

There’s even a fourth type, that’s also been me at times. It’s the person who’s asked for directions but isn’t sure, however really wants to help. So I’ll point where I believe the destination to be, only to realise after the person asking has departed, that I’ve pointed in the entirely wrong direction.

I’ve also discovered that running after this person while yelling and waving, only makes them run away from you in the wrong direction even faster.


So all I can do is hope that they figure out to ask someone else, or they’ve got enough provisions to last until they’re rescued.

As one of the last remaining humans who seems to walk anywhere in the suburbs, people often pull over and ask me for directions.

Often I don’t know, and then have to put up with questions about why I’m wondering around a suburb if I don’t know where I’m going either. Basically the person is saying, ‘What has gone so wrong in your life that you’re an adult human who doesn’t have a car?’

Then there are the people who don’t believe that you don’t know, so will hound you for help. In the end I’ll just point towards what I hope is a main road, and they’ll smile and say, ‘See? That’s wasn’t too difficult now was it?’

Half an hour later they’ll then creep around a corner, still lost and spy me, still walking. This time, they’ll pretend they haven’t even seen me. Which is fine with me.

I’ve even been asked for directions out of a shopping centre car park. As it turned out, I didn’t know either.

Thanks to Google Maps what I now do if someone asks for some assistance is look up their location using my phone, and try to steer them that way.

It seems like a plausible solution, until you realise that if they were able to use a phone to navigate, they wouldn’t be asking for directions.

So as well as trying to show them on a tiny map where they should be going, you’re now stuck giving a smartphone tutorial to someone who hasn’t yet worked out how to text.

Best of all is when I am lucky enough to be driving in a car, and someone asks me for directions. If I’m not in a rush and where they want to go is close enough, I’ll give them a lift.

Well I’ll offer them a lift, but very few people are willing to get into a car covered in rust, held together with duct tape and driven by a bloke in a faded blue Bonds singlet. Wearing no pants. I’ve found through trial, and a lot of error.

Even fewer people are then willing to get into a car, if you drive along slowly next to them imploring them to get in. This is especially frowned upon by the police, I’ve been told by the police.

Stupidity aside, one thing I have discovered is that if someone asks you for directions, it often only takes a moment to help them. If it takes a little longer, so what?

They smile, you’ve helped, and everyone feels good.


Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

He’s at the Brisbane Comedy Festival with the comedy walking tour ‘2014 – When We Were Idiots’ from March 18 to 22.

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Then at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from March 27 to April 20.

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His debut comedy book about life on a FIFO (fly in fly out) mining site called ‘Mining My Own Business’ is available now.