461: Google Maps

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 03:31, 26 December 2013 by (talk) (Explanation)
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Google Maps
Apparently Google assumes you're traveling during the ferry's normal operating hours. We lost two hours circling that damn lake (to say nothing of the Straw Man).
Title text: Apparently Google assumes you're traveling during the ferry's normal operating hours. We lost two hours circling that damn lake (to say nothing of the Straw Man).


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Google Maps is a web mapping service application, which among other things, offers a route planner. The comic pokes fun at Google Maps for occasionally giving suboptimal directions, taking it to the logical extreme of giving directions that resemble the plot of a badly-scripted horror/action movie or an old text adventure game as you would read it in a walkthrough. Godspeed might refer to the name of the writer of this walkthrough.

Luckily Cueball's brother realizes that the directions are weird when he notices that they're supposed to take a ferry after midnight. However, the title text implies that despite the bizarreness of the directions, the brothers still took them. They also apparently woke the Straw Man.

Alternatively, the title text is a real event that happened with Randall, which provided inspiration for the dramatized, fictionalized version presented.


My road trip with my brother ran into trouble around page three of the Google Maps printout
[Google Maps printout.]
← 70. Slight left at RT-22 - go 6.8 mi
→ 71. Turn right to stay on RT-22 - go 2.6 mi
← 72. Turn left at Lake Shore Rd - go 312 ft
→ 73. Turn right at Dock St - go 427 ft
[An icon of water] 74. Take the ferry across the lake. - go 2.8 mi
[A car is driving in the dark.]
Brother: Okay, now take Dock St toward the ferry.
Cueball: We're supposed to take a ferry? It's past midnight, and these woods are creepy.
Brother: Google Maps wouldn't steer us wrong.
[Cueball and his brother stand outside the car. The ferry has a sign on it reading CLOSED.]
[Cueball is standing next to his brother, who is holding a Google Maps printout.]
[Cueball motions towards his brother.]
Cueball: Let me see those directions.
[Google Maps printout.]
[An icon of water] 74. Take the ferry across the lake. - go 2.8 mi
↗ 75. Climb the HILL toward Hangman's Ridge, avoiding any mountain lions. - up 1,172 ft
↷ 76. When you reach an old barn, go around back, knock on the second door, and ask for Charlie. - go 52 ft
[An icon of a van] 77. Tell Charlie the Dancing Stones are restless. He will give you his van. - Careful
[An icon of a straw man] 78. Take Charlie's van down Old Mine Road. Do not wake the Straw Man. - go π mi
← 79. Turn left on Comstock. When you feel the blood chill in your veins, stop the van and get out. - go 3.2 mi
↓ 80. Stand very still. Exits are north, south, and east, but are block by a Spectral Wolf. - go 0 ft
[An icon of a menacing face] 81. The Spectral Wolf fears only FIRE. The Google Maps Team can no longer help you, but if you master the wolf, he will guide you. Godspeed. - go ?? mi

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By the end, it's really starting to sound like a text-based fantasy adventure game, or possibly a game of D&D. This adds an additional level of humour: using Google Maps to navigate around virtual worlds.

I particularly liked the "Go pi miles", and the "Careful" instructions in the Google Maps "Action" column on the right. --MisterSpike (talk) 18:58, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Yes it is very much like old text games. 04:18, 7 July 2013 (UTC)
To me, it actually looks like a walkthrough for an adventure game of some sort. Or possibly a hint book considering the "official-sounding" last part. 06:38, 25 December 2013 (UTC)

The Spectral Wolf plays a role in World of Warcraft, but as I am not a WoW player, I don't feel qualified to update the explanation. Any WoWians want to add a paragraph on the Spectral Wolf?NikoNarf (talk) 19:17, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

I am one, but the Reins of the Spectral Wolf were not released until the Cataclysm expansion (December 2010). Thus a WoW-related explanation for the wolf would be anachronistic. Amurfalcon (talk) 21:07, 10 December 2013 (UTC)
I am one as well. There was a quest that Tauren did in their starting region, where they had to follow a spectral wolf. If I remember correctly, it was in Vanilla WoW. No anachronism here. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I'm not sure what is meant by the use of the term "Straw Man" instead of scarecrow or some other spooky or Halloween-themed equivalent. Perhaps it is a reference to the fallacy, but the fallacy is unassociated with "waking" unless maybe it's loosely related to the aggression that generally accompanies the attack of a straw man. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"They also apparently woke the Straw Man."

I don't think there's more implied than that they lost time getting past, or detouring around, 'the Straw Man'. 14:13, 25 December 2013 (UTC)

Looks like "Zork" to me. Anyone remember Zork? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The Spectral Wolf would make all of this work so worthwhile. I mean... you would be getting a SPECTRAL WOLF! I wish I had a real one. Greyson (talk) 13:41, 3 January 2014 (UTC)

Does anyone know if the name Charlie means something? -- Dontknow (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Googles directions weren't just suboptimal in some cases they were crazy

IIRC I saw one set of directions that told the reader to "swim across the atlantic ocean" not once (well docuemnted easter egg) but twice as well as driving round most of europe to get to a destination in the same country they started in. -- plugwash 23:29, 28 April 2014 (UTC)

This comic describes a real place. Googling "rt-22 and lake shore road" will result in a ferry crossing in Essex, NY. Route-22 (Station ST) becomes Lake Shore road through a left turn near Pink Pig Cottage Antiques. About 300 feet from that T intersection is a small, unnamed, road on the right leading to the Essex-Charloette ferry route. 22:34, 13 November 2014 (UTC)

And thanks to Streetview we can see the ferry 21:22, 10 April 2015 (UTC).

There is the additional joke of going around the lake twice looking for a ferry. Wherever along the lake shores the ferry was going to go, they already passed by driving around the lake. Also, I think "godspeed" maybe another pun (meaning both "good luck," and implying you will travel at the speed of the gods). Mountain Hikes (talk) 11:29, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

"Godspeed" is a traditional term of farewell to someone about to take a possibly dangerous journey. 20:12, 6 October 2016 (UTC)

Although the title text says, "Google assumes you're traveling during the ferry's normal operating hours", at the time the printout was made the ferry may have been operating. 02:35, 11 July 2021 (UTC)