When asked how to get to, say, Scarborough Faire
, one has to go down Fifth Boulevard, turn left at the ice cream shop, hang right at the third intersection, go east on North Avenue, north on South Avenue, cut through three-quarters of Hide Park, take the Six Thirty-Six to Fourth Station, do a U-turn after 3.5 stop signs, shake a leg down Short Street, boogie up the West Side, and do the hokey-pokey and turn oneself around, since that's what it's all about.
This is not limited to travel directions though.
Can also be used for other situations like cooking or computer assembly. When the actual phrase "You Can't Miss It" is used, the landmark or destination in question may be either easily missed, perhaps by taking a Wrong Turn at Albuquerque
, or truly and tragically unmissable.
Especially aggravating for those with No Sense of Direction
, or a Directionless Driver
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- In one election for Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, there was a TV ad featuring a woman asking a female neighbor for directions. After the neighbor gave overly complicated directions, the woman asked for some easier way and the suggestion was voting for Cesar Maia for Mayor. Note: That was the election where he won his first term as Mayor of Rio de Janeiro.
- John Goodman's character in the 1997 film version of The Borrowers rudely asked a receptionist for directions to a room in the building and she replied by giving him a lot of complicated instructions, ending with "walk quickly". Later on, the Kid Hero politely asked for the same thing and this time she said "take the elevator to the top and walk straight ahead - You can't miss it".
- The Wolf, Hoodwinked, falls victim to this after Red escapes:
Twitchy: [out of breath after catching up to the Wolf; he collapses on his back] So can we eat?
The Wolf: Sure, you hungry for failure? Maybe a side of unemployment? 'Cause that's what's for lunch.
Twitchy: [sits up] Well what do we do?
The Wolf: We go right to the source. We've gotta get to Granny's before the kid does. [Boingo appears]
Boingo: Is it a surprise?
The Wolf: Excuse me?
Boingo: You're going over to Granny's house to surprise Red. I mean, is it her birthday, or what is it? Is it some kind of shim dig, 'cause I'm great at parties! Watch me pull myself out of a hat! [scratches his right ear against his head]
The Wolf: Yeah, big surprise party. You know how to get there?
Boingo: Oh, yeah. Yeah, in fact, I know a shortcut.
(Cuts to the Wolf and Twitchy walking in ankle-deep water through a pitch-black tunnel; Twitchy turns on his camera light]
...and then that lemonade goes bitter, and ferments, and turns to pig-swill. Never trust a bunny
with directions, Twitchy.
Twitchy: Sure thing, boss! Never trust a bunny!
The Wolf: Well the bright side is at least I finally dried off. [immediately falls into a small hole, soaking his hoodie and bringing the water up to his waist] Why couldn't I write movie reviews? [stands up] We are in a pickle, and I blame myself. That bunny was worthless, not to mention he wrote the directions on an Easter Egg [holds up a brightly colored Easter egg with something illegible scribbled on it] which is very hard to read.
Twitchy: Oh, we're gonna die in here!
The Wolf: Come on, that's what they said at the Alamo!
- This Is Spinal Tap: the guys get lost backstage and ask a janitor for directions to the stage. Following his directions only lead them back to the same janitor.
- From The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra:
"Stay on this road here, past Dead Man's Curve, you'll come to an old fence, called The Devil's Fence. From there, go on foot till you come to a valley known as The Cathedral Of Lost Soap. Smack in the center is what they call Forgetful Milkman's Quadrangle. Stay right on The Path Of Staring Skulls and you come to a place called Death Clearing. Cabin's right there, can't miss it."
- From The Dish:
Al: The prime receiving station has no idea where Apollo XI is?
Glenn: Yeah, it's on its way to the Moon.
- Later, they realise that this is the correct answer: if the spaceship was on its way to the Moon, with only a few thousand miles to go, it would be within a few degrees of the Moon in the sky.
- The phrase is used in From Dusk Till Dawn, when the elder Gecko brother is giving the minister instructions on how to get to the Titty Twister, ending with, "From what I understand, you can't miss it." It ends with a Gilligan Cut to the establishment, which includes a 30 foot neon picture of a naked woman, and bikers riding around in front of it so, yeah, sorta hard to miss.
- In Funny Farm, the movers get lost trying to find the main characters' new house. A local gives them directions that only a local would understand, including instructions to turn where landmarks used to be. They arrive a day late and pissed off.
- The Case Of The Mukkinese Battle Horn opens with a thick London fog. But the narrator cheerfully points out that even in the thickest of fogs, there are some landmarks you just can't miss. Like Nelson's column, for example. *sound of car crashing* "You see? There's someone not missing it now!"
- In Red Sonja, directions to find Queen Gedren's castle include "Straight north from here. You can't miss it. But it's worth a try."
- Mr. Tyler from Good Omens gives directions like this, complete with tangents aggravated by his self-righteous tendencies.
You go back down that road for half a mile, then first left, it's in a deplorable state of disrepair I'm afraid, I've written numerous letters to the council about it, are you civil servants or civil masters, that's what I asked them, after all, who pays your wages? then second right, only it's not exactly right, it's on the left but you'll find it bends round toward the right eventually, it's signposted Porrit's Lane, but of course it isn't Porrit's Lane, you look at the ordinance survey map, you'll see, it's simply the eastern end of Forest Hill Lane, you'll come out in the village, now you go past the Bull and Fiddle — that's a public house — then when you get to the church (I have pointed out to the people who compile the ordinance survey map that it's a church with a spire, not a church with a tower, indeed I have written to the Tadfield Advertiser, suggesting they mount a local campaign to get the map corrected, and I have every hope that once these people realize with whom they are dealing you'll see a hasty U-turn from them) then you'll get to a crossroads, now, you go straight across that crossroads and you'll immediately come to a second crossroads, now, you can take either the left-hand fork or go straight on, either way you'll arrive at the air base (although the left-hand fork is almost a tenth of a mile shorter) and you can't miss it.
- The Discworld Mapp explains that navigating by asking people where you are never works. Either the person isn't from around here, despite the fact they are walking a dog, or they know where they are in such detail that they can't pass this information on in any useful form:
"turn where you get to where the boot factory used to be, no, tell you what, it'll save you some time, go along where the viaduct was, you can't miss it, then turn right only it's really straight ahead, and kind of jiggle past the main road and ... no, I tell a lie, what you do is, you go back down here until you get to where you can see the old hospital was, only you can't no more 'cos they've taken the sign away, and..."
- One of Gerald Morris' books had the heroes ask a random couple for directions. The couple mentions things like "the swamp where Betty's horse almost drowned," and "The tree that was cut down after it was struck by lightning" before they start arguing about whether someone's son broke his arm before or after they painted their barn, and the protagonists leave in disgust.
- In The Hollows novel A Fistful of Charms, Rachel is in a small town and is given directions to the local magic store that includes such useful landmarks as "the church that burned down two years ago".
- Erma Bombeck once wrote a joke about asking a gas station attendant directions on how to get to a baseball field. The guy starts into the complicated turn left turn right you've gone too far, only to have her say that they're already at the last landmark. The guy says that's cause she's here already, the baseball field is behind the station. What a wisenheimer.
- Parodied in Dave Barry Slept Here, in which the old route from Europe to the East is described: "cross the Alps on foot, then take a sailing ship across the Mediterranean to Egypt, then take a camel across the desert, then take another sailing ship back across the Mediterranean, then change to the IRT Number 6 Local as far as 104th Street, and then ask directions."
Live Action TV
- Monty Python's Flying Circus:
Chris Quinn/Michael Ellis: Oh, where do I go to complain?
Lift Operator: Straight on, then left, then right past the thing, then up the little stairs, then right past the bit where it's gone all soft, down the wobbly bit, left past the nail, past the brown stain on the wall to your right, and it's the door marked "exit" straight ahead of you on the left.
- Subverted on Little Britain:
Ray McCooney: Oh, we're easy to find. When you see the hanging tree, take a left. When you come to the old well, take a right. If ye pass the scarecrow, YE'VE COME TO FAR!... Yeah that's right, opposite IKEA.
- Doctor Who "The Unquiet Dead":
The Doctor: There's a wardrobe through there. First left, second right, third on the left, go straight ahead, under the stairs, past the bins, it's the fifth door on your left. Hurry up!
- In "Daleks in Manhattan," when Martha and the Doctor volunteer to do a tunnel clearing project in the sewers for Mr. Diagoras, Diagoras says, "Turn left. Go about a half a mile. Follow tunnel 273. The fall's right ahead of you. You can't miss it." Of course, there is no tunnel collapse - it's a ruse invented to lure more Hooverville residents into a position to be captured and converted into Dalek-Human hybrids.
- Also happens in the Doctor Who Adventure Game TARDIS, when the Doctor tries to direct Amy to the Drawing Room. Supposedly, it's 'half a mile down the corridor, left, then right, then right again, then the third right, past a weird swirly thing, left, then the other left, through the sun room, past a green door, right, along a wall until it becomes slimey, down a lift to the third floor and straight ahead.'
- A set of instructions for getting from the Hekawi Indian camp to Fort Courage on F Troop once included (approximately): "Turn left at the big rock that looks like a bear. Then turn right at the big bear that looks like a rock."
- In How I Met Your Mother, Lilly gets annoyed that Barney can't get the twenty or so steps to make some oragami figures.
- Married... with Children: Al went to a shop and found it closed. When he asked a passerby where to find her, he gave a complicated set of instructions and Al asked if he could simply go to the other side of the street. The passerby explained he needed a ride.
- One Saturday Night Live sketch from 1992 was a game show called "What's The Best Way?" where New Englanders had to give directions from location to location (Like Quincy, Massachusetts to the the Jordan Marsh department store in Bedford, New Hampshire) and answered questions about the route (Example: Hartford to Sturbridge, how many Dunkin' Donuts along the way? Answer: Fourteen, four of them with drive thrus.)
- In Top Gear, the cast used a navigation service to plot a route between 2 towns without using the major highway. The route they got was ridiculously long, and including going through Cork in Ireland and going through France. Then they printed up the directions.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Albuquerque" begins with him describing where he grew up: "Way back when I was just a little bitty boy living in a box under the stairs in the corner of the basement of the house half a block down the street from Jerry's Bait Shop... You know the place."
- Psychostick's song "Girl Directions" is all about this, with the chorus providing the guy's reaction:
Gimme the fuckin' address!
Just gimme the fuckin' address, you bitch!
Gimme the fuckin' address!
I'm using a GPS!
- The "giving directions by now-demolished landmarks" variant was used as the joke in one strip of Pluggers:
Plugger: ...then take a left where the Safeway used to be, go a couple of miles, and it's on the right where the Miller Dairy was...
Pluggers give directions in the past tense
- In Beetle Bailey, there have been a few occasions when someone is adviced how to find a particular person's tent (or similar) with the phrase, and indeed they couldn't miss it even among a row of tents because it turned out to look very idiosyncratic in the given person's style.
- Dave Allen: "If you want to get there I wouldn't start from here."
- From Jeff Foxworthy: "If the directions to your house include the phrase 'turn off the paved road', you might be a redneck."
- The opening number of the musical Plain And Fancy, which is actually titled "You Can't Miss It," has Pennsylvanians offering the main characters confusing directions that might or might not take them to Bird-in-Hand.
Truth In Television
- Google suggests you swim across the Atlantic Ocean.
- If going between China and Japan, it suggests you jet ski the Pacific.
- The "giving directions by where things used to be" thing is not uncommon in small towns everywhere. Everybody knows where the grocery store / highschool / police station used to be.
- Never try to navigate Oakland, CA at street level using a GPS device.
- In extremely rural areas, directions tend to use things like barns, silos and unusual trees as markers. This is more a matter of necessity than any desire to be mean on the part of the direction-giver — there simply aren't that many other landmarks that can be used and roads are often poorly marked.
- Georgia residents have, as a sort of state-wide In-Joke, the phrase "If you see the Big Chicken, you've gone too far." The Big Chicken, incidentally, is a KFC made to look like, well...
- Ski resorts fall victim to this trope when it comes to trying to get from one spot of a mountain to another. Bigger ski resorts, in particular big Colorado ski resorts like Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Snowmass, Steamboat, and Winter Park can fall victim to this, as there can be spots where you have to rely on geographical landmarks to get your bearings, as trail signs are sparse. Sometimes, the locations of chairlifts can be used as a guide in places where trees are sparse.
- The mapmaker gives you directions like this in a delivery mission in The Longest Journey.
- In Quest for Glory II, before you can buy a map of the city (which allows you to instantly teleport to any location you've been to before, and navigate the confusing maze of alleyways to anywhere new you need to get), you need to get your money changed to the local currency. The map-seller is happy to give you directions to the money-changer... directions that require note-taking and extreme care to follow correctly.