Often characters will give complicated directions and then act as though what they said is simple, often much to the annoyance of those trying to figure out what the character is talking 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.
Compare It Works Itself.
- 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.
- In Soul Hunter, a hideously complicated aerial maneuver is called out (and part of it is the Classic Cheat Code "up up down down..."), but it pays off in the end because the guy giving the instructions was The Chessmaster.
- A variation is done in Dragon Ball Z. During the Buu Arc, Super Buu appears at the Lookout to fight Gotenks. Knowing Goten and Trunks don't stand a chance, Piccolo has them go to the Chamber of Space and Time to train while he stalls for time. When Buu gets impatient and demands to fight now, Piccolo decides to take him to the Chamber, but purposely takes the longest most convoluted route imaginable to buy even more time.
- 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."
- A joke involves a guy asking for directions at a bar in the middle of nowhere, being told to turn left at a crossroads where there's a red pickup truck parked. And what if it's not there? Turn left anyway.
- 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 advised on 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.
- The Wolf and Twitchy in Hoodwinked are contemplating how to get to Granny Puckett's house when Boingo shows up and offers directions:
The Wolf: You know how to get there?
Boingo: Oh, yeah. Yeah, in fact, I know a shortcut.
The Wolf: [to Twitchy] You hear that? He knows a shortcut.
Boingo: You go over the woods and through the river... no, you don't wanna go through the river. You'll get all wet.
The Wolf: You see, Twitchy, you get lemons, you make lemonade...
[cuts to the Wolf and Twitchy walking in ankle-deep water through a pitch-black tunnel; Twitchy turns on his camera light]
The Wolf: ...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!
- John Goodman's character in the 1997 film version of The Borrowers rudely asks a receptionist for directions to a room in the building and she replies by giving him a lot of complicated instructions, ending with "walk quickly." Later on, the Kid Hero politely asks for the same thing and this time she says "Take the elevator to the top and walk straight ahead — you can't miss it."
- This Is Spın̈al 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 realize 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.
Mr. Tyler: 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..."
- The Squire's Tales: One of Gerald Morris's books has 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."
- 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."
- "The Unquiet Dead":
- 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!
- Discussed on David Wilcox's Live Songs and Stories album, in the lead-in to the song That's What The Lonely Is For, where it's called "the kiss of death". Described both in its literal sense with directions ("The huge blue poodle, you can't miss it...") and in a metaphorical sense for questions like "How do you know you're in love?" "Oh, you'll know..."
- 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.
- 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.
- Inverted in "Dungeon Siege" . When Legion Overseer Ibsen Yamas gives the quest to reinforce Fortress Kroth, he says "Just follow your nose through the ice cave and you'll get there soon enough." However, after the ice cave, the player and the party must fight through a crystal cave, a forest full of bandits, a zombie-infested swamp, a steampunk underground Goblin fortress, rid a difficult waterlogged dungeon of enemies, clear some Temple Ruins of floating skeletons and beholders, and finally emerge in a scrubland... only to find your path to Fortress Kroth blocked by the Necromancer Gresh. Once he is dead, his barriers disappear and the fort is open.
- Parodied by xkcd in this strip. And this one. And this.
- Bob and George:
Dr. Light: Jesus, George, it's only one button!
- Parodied when Dr. Light gives George extremely complex instructions on operating a time machine... with a single button. When he complains:
- George gets Dr. Light back later with another one-button control. Although to be fair, he was just distracting the doctor with his complicated instructions while someone else did the real work behind the scenes.
- From Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko and Heffer ask directions to Flem Rock from a country bumpkin, who proceeds to give rambling directions, then gets sidetracked telling an anecdote about a friend of his:
Bumpkin: Flem Rock? Well... first you gotta go back 5 or 10 Miles till you get to big purple shed with Rufus painted on the side. You take the dirt road just past that shed. Don't go to far, just a little bit past it. If you see another shed with Chaka Khan painted on the side then you've gone too far.
- The Looney Tunes short "There Auto Be a Law" had a Running Gag of a man in a complicated overpass asking a hamburger stand attendant for directions to the main road. The attendant keeps giving him different directions, ending each time with "you can't miss". At the end of the cartoon, the attendant confesses that he doesn't know how to get out of the overpass, and that he opened the stand to keep from starving to death. The man ends up opening a hotdog stand right beside the attendant.
- In the Danger Mouse episode "Custard", Danger Mouse is searching space for a custard-eating alien that can help thwart Baron Greenback's plot to flood the world with custard, and asks another alien for directions. The alien obligingly gives him complicated directions, complete with seemingly-random pointing and obscure landmarks ("...turn left at the planet with the little pink rocks and the shops that close on Thursdays...").
- Squidbillies: Early's incomprehensible directions to the pizza guy. "No, I said left at the BIG stump! I know you think that's a big stump, but there's a bigger'un comin' down the road!"
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: In "Where the Apple Lies", Applejack gives deliberately vague and complicated directions to Filthy Rich and Spoiled Milk when they're looking for Granny Smith's room in the hospital, ending with "Easy as Granny's apple pie." Naturally, they get lost.
- 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.