Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Adventures in Navigating

In keeping with my gadget buying strategy, which consists of "buy [said gadget] 3-5 years after the rest of the world has one", I recently purchased my first GPS. This particular model does not have some of the fancier features, like real time traffic (this will become an issue later). It was a gift for my wife, and while it didn't go over like the bowling ball Homer gave Marge (with "HOMER" engraved on it no less) for her birthday, suffice it to say it ended up being as much, if not more, a gift for me as for her.

I tested it out on some short drives, to places I already knew how to get, just to see how it would take me before moving on to actual long trips. A few observations hit me right away:

1. The Voice. A big decision to make for many. Without fail, all men will choose the female voice they find sexiest. Is there any doubt I'd pick the British or Australian lady, than assign an appropriate name to? No, there is no doubt at all. I call her "Keelie". (Ladies, this is an excellent way to learn more about your man. If he chooses Helga, the German authoritarian, for example, there might be some unresolved issues he needs to work out. YOU VILL TURN NOW!)

2. Arrival Time. What is this, some kind of challenge? You might have used some convoluted algorithm to determine that I will arrive at my destination at 8:32, but all that does is guarantee I will quickly yell "Bullshit! I can get there by 8:31!" Thanks Garmin, for having us idiots nearly mow down pedestrians just to prove you wrong. My lawyer is now on speed dial for the inevitable lawsuit.

3. "Recalculating..." - Another challenge for the obnoxious (like me) is to deviate from Keelie's directions, just to see how she responds. The goal is to see how many times you can make her say "recalculating" before either giving up completely on you and shutting herself off, or better yet cursing you out in that wonderful accent (Her: "TURN LEFT YOU BLOODY WANKER!" Me: "You sound so freaking hot"). So far I've not been able to produce either response, but it's certainly not for a lack of trying. Part of me is also secretly hoping for a Twilight Zone moment where it becomes self aware and starts being really specific when addressing me, ("John, you really should have shaved this morning.") More on this as it develops.

What struck me most of all, however, was how quickly I became dependant on the device, and what effect that will ultimately have. Map reading and navigating will soon become a lost skill, like knowing how to keep score at the bowling alley, or properly folding a newspaper while commuting. Mapquest? That's for PUSSIES! Fire up Keelie and let her guide me there!

This all became evident while returning from Eastern PA a few weeks back. Logic told me that taking the George Washington Bridge on a Sunday afternoon was a bad idea, but I wasn't 100% sure of an alternate route, and Keelie was telling me to go there so I blindly obeyed. The result? A trip which could've/should've taken a scant 3-4 hours took more like 7-8. During a pounding thunderstorm. Basically, THE RIDE FROM HELL.

Keelie and I fought that night, and likely will again. The trust we shared simply isn't there anymore. How can I listen to her after what she put me through?

Oh who am I kidding, Keelie, you know I can't quit you. C'mon, let's go for a drive.

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