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John Winters Columnist

Published Sunday, November 25, 2012

Facts vs. myths

Roughly a half-eon ago, my college professor stood up and said something that has stayed with me.

“Facts are irrelevant. Perception is reality,” he said.

Why it struck me was this was not a psychology or sociology or other “ology” class, but rather a journalism one. The fact my professor said facts are irrelevant kind of defeated the whole idea of going into journalism. Or so I thought.

This professor was what we call “old school.” Journalists should be read, not heard - unless they were the second-tier television journalists and were reading said news. Journalists should present all sides as fairly as possible. We are observers.

My professor could not handle today’s big networks or cable stations because he’d constantly be pulling out his shotgun and blowing up the screen every time some “journalist” gave his opinion, or explained to us dumb readers/viewers what so-and-so really meant by what he said five minutes ago.

Facts were the only thing that mattered to him. And thus his comment. People believe what they want to believe or what they just heard from whomever as gospel.

It was our job as journalist to keep finding the facts. What one perceived was irrelevant, facts were reality. And he pounded that into us. Find the truth. Keep your personal opinions out of it.

And I have tried to live up to that professor’s standards, to write about facts, not perception. And to debunk perception and find reality.

And one of those “facts verses perception” memes is the notion men won’t ask for directions while driving; especially not from women.

Let us debunk this myth with facts once and for all. It all started because one time, one time mind you, a gentleman tried to take a shortcut and it didn’t quite pan out.

That would be in 1846 when a group of 87 pioneers headed out from Missouri to California. They decided to take a shortcut - the Hastings Cutoff. In their defense, there was no service station around to ask directions, but the women in the group apparently wanted to go the long way because it was better known. The men, being men, went with the shortcut and got stranded in deep snow.

That group, better known in history as the Donner Party, pretty much starved to death. And the fact they resorted to cannibalism has not helped the urban myth about men and directions.

And ever since, women have used the “Donner” myth to prove men do not ask directions. Regardless of the facts.

Let us move onto said facts.

All the cool kids now have some type of GPS device. It might be on the car dashboard or on their smart/dumb phone. And what does that little GPS device do? Provide directions.

And all the really cool kids have those that talk back to you. And, drum roll please, 99.984 percent of those are female voices.

Ta da.

Let’s just review that one more time. GPS devices give directions. Many of them give voice directions. Almost all those voices are women.

And so, we men take our female-voiced GPS on the road and happily follow her directions. She says turn left, we turn left. She says turn right, we turn right. Go straight 14.56 miles, you got it. And we will follow her directions blindly, with complete confidence and devotion.

Until she drives us into a lake.

It was at the above line when my precious Little Black Dress, who was reading over my shoulder, said “are you kidding me?”

“She” is an “it,” the LBD said. “Are you trying to compare women to “it?” And then proceeded to remind me of the rather extensive drive we took over just about every downtown Atlanta road recently one dark night trying to get back on the Interstate. And The Dress locked the doors and asked how that whole GPS thing was working out.

Simply because we did not arrive at said destination at said time does not mean we are lost.

We, men, just like to explore. Maybe not to the extent of the Donner party. But just explore, and sometimes, without help.

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