Finally, I have the answer.
The revelation slipped out of Dale’s mouth. The truth arrived without a stammer.
His guard must have been down that day. His answer blasted through my auditory system and secured itself in my memory forever. The download worked so successfully that, today, I can pass on the secret.
Just before I reveal the real reason that men don’t ask for direction, I want to introduce our source. With as little bias as love will allow, my friend Dale was exceptional.
The reason for past tense? He died of cancer on April 1, 2010.
Here’s who he was: A prairie farmer who could fix anything, create tools that hadn’t been invented and tackle any job presented as “impossible”. Dale had a brain that delivered ideas where practicality and brilliance met as equal partners. At times, his ideas could sound absurd. Sometimes his solutions would be lost amongst nuggets of humour. Some of us foolishly laughed so hard that we missed the significance and brilliance of his offering.
Dale was the friend who I visited when some aspect of life pinched me into humbleness. I learned to approach him sideways. Head on encounters flicked some switch that turned Dale into the Prince of Defiance. He would occasionally be like the big dog that demonstrates ‘Hell, I’m not going to get myself into that mess‘ when some small, yappy, four-legged demon demands alpha status.
Out of respect for Dale, I wanted this disclosure to wait until I was certain he had not found a way to return. Not only would that have meant he truly could fix anything, it would also mean this was his secret to tell.
So on this particular day, I had nothing pinching my heart or my psyche. I was driving by Dale’s home where he was renovating a Greyhound bus. I pulled in to see if he was due for a coffee break.
“Hey, Dale. Got some time?” After a welcome hug, we went into the house and he made a pot of coffee.
“What’s on your mind?” he asked.
I wanted a good reason for interrupting his work. I couldn’t simply say that I wanted to spend time with him. That would have put him on edge. I had to think fast.
“I just came from a conversation with a woman friend. She told me about an awful experience. She and her husband were threatened while in Vancouver. The whole traumatic event could have been avoided if her husband would have stopped the vehicle long enough for her to simply ask directions. He wouldn’t stop and they got themselves into a scary situation.”
Dale reached for his tobacco, “So this is one of your questions about men.”
Dale was one of the most masculine men I knew. He seldom answered my questions immediately which gave me the impression I was getting the true goods. Sometimes I had to wait for the tobacco to be placed perfectly in the paper. With his pointer fingers and both thumbs, he rolled the paper back and forth until the tobacco was compact. Slowly, he’d lick the paper, finish the last rolling motion, study his work and tidy the ends.
This time was no exception. I trusted he was dipping deeply into that vast basin of knowledge, insight and soul.
I said, “So, Dale…what is it about men that stops them from asking for directions? What’s really the reason…no joking around. Every woman I know needs this answer.”
“Hmmmm,” he said as he lit the cigarette.
“Don’t be making anything up! Tell the truth,” His delay was longer than usual.
He grinned, “I’m not making anything up. I’m working at getting to the answer.”
He puffed on his cigarette, took a few sips of his coffee and watched the gulls fighting over treats on a passing fish boat.
“I can tell you why,” he finally said.
I held my breath, imagining a drum roll.
With a look of unabashed sincerity, he said, “Because we don’t know we’re lost.”
We laughed uproariously. This time, however, his brilliance was not lost in humour.