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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.
- In Houshin Engi, 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.
- 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:
"That bunny was a waste of time. These directions are useless... not to mention he wrote them on an easter egg (holds up complicated directions scrawled on an Easter egg)... which is very hard to read..."
- 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?
- 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!"
- 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.
Live Action TV
Chris Quinn/Michael Ellis: Oh, where do I go to complain?
- 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!
- 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.'
- Not a landmark, but Daniel Jackson uses almost his exact phrase when describing Teal'c in an early episode of SG-1.
Daniel: Where's Teal'c?
- 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.
- "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!
- 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...
- 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."
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 Inside 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...
- The mapmaker gives you directions like this in a delivery mission in The Longest Journey.
- In Quest for Glory 2, 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.
- Parodied in this xkcd strip.
- Parodied in Bob and George, when Dr. Light gives George extremely complex instructions on operating a time machine... with a single button. When he complains:
Dr. Light: Jesus, George, it's only one button!
- 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.
- This Penny Arcade comic.
- 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:
"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.
- 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...").