Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

By Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen

I take few vacations because I generally like where I am every day and my work isn’t suited to frequent time away.  Virtual doctoring has its limits after all.

Weeks ago the daughter in law suggested that we might like to visit the summer place on Cape Cod where her family has always spent their holiday time and where members of her family are now putting down roots. This was the first invitation to spend extended time with my son and daughter in law in her family’s special place, Chatham, Mass. She volunteered to choose the resort and made the reservations for us.  Suddenly this became a vacation with a wonderful purpose. And with my temperament, I could look forward to a vacation with a purpose.

We arrived yesterday afternoon, driving from New York to Chatham, Massachusetts in about 4 hours.  I had won the fight over auto entertainment and chose Dante’s Divine Comedy, The Inferno of course, translated by Robert Pinsky.

As readers of this narrative poem know, Dante’s imaginary journey occurs mid-way through his life when he realizes he has taken the wrong path. (I had a premonition that we would once again become lost).  Virgil has been sent to him to be his guide as Dante begins his religious pilgrimage to find God.  To reach his goal, Dante passes through the Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.

You can just imagine what it is like to go on holiday with me from my choice of books on tape, “All hope abandon ye who enter here” intones the reader with the classically trained voice as we are moving forward on I-95. Then the bloody woman whom every man wants to be married to begins with the navigational assistance every 10 minutes.  On top of the voice of the reader a mad duet is performed:  “continue straight ahead for the next 500 yards”, our Virgil intones in a sugary certain to please and reassure voice; while Dante’s Virgil rebukes the dreaded boatman who has refused to carry the un-dead across the river Acheron with, “IN HELL WHAT GOD WILLS IS DONE” and then, “turn right in 10 feet” followed by “ONLY THE DAMMED”.

The husband was unwilling to give up his sweet voiced Virgil and no one sane could listen to two Virgils at once so I sulked with The New York Post, then the New York Times, followed by the Wall Street Journal.  We stopped for a stretch and some gas and continued our journey.  Soon we were in Chatham, Massachusetts and Kevin from the front desk at our resort called to see if we were still checking in on Tuesday.

“Certainly”, I said.  “We are only 3 miles from the resort according to our GPS system.”  “That is unusual”, he said because the GPS normally doesn’t recognize our address.  Odd, I thought.  Then I asked the husband what address he had put into the GPS system. “Oh I just made one up from the map”, he said, adding, “since the GPS couldn’t find the address of the resort.”

You can guess the rest.  It took us another 30 minutes driving in circles (fortunately not the nine circles of Hell) with directions from non-local summer front desk associates who were so very friendly but were of no help.

At one point while we were turning around again, I thought that I saw life in the windows of a bait and tackle shop.  “I’m getting some real directions”, I snarled; (Charon the boatman had nothing on me).  I marched into the shop to find a sweet and slightly confused woman in her 70’s who gave me directions to this large and well known resort by sort of waving her hands over a local map.  I hate to be a sexist about this, but we would still be on that road in a soon to be dark wood if a local guy had not entered to save me.  “Do you know how to get to The Wequassett?” I pleaded.  “Sure”, he said, and took a red pen to the local map and gave me a five minute route to our destination.

The husband was as tired of his Virgil as I was at this point so he happily took the map and we completed our journey, overcoming the obstacles of navigational ineptness with marriage intact.

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  • Liza Near August 23, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Thank the Good Lord for Virgil and for Douglas – and of course for our dear Pat who knows it all! You better be thoroughly enjoying that spot – its beautiful, rustic and all of that!

  • Carolyn Hahn August 23, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Sounds like a charming trip! I’m laughing that your description of that GPS chick’s voice. My father (75) and stepmother (85) refer to her as “Tootsie” and I met her in their car in California last May for a family gathering. My father took a wrong turn and she kindly, but firmly and increasingly urgently made sure he got back on the right path. It’s a funny threesome, but there is respect on all sides, and who would not be happy with company that diligent!