Lyrical Laughs

Monday, July 22, 2013

G P S-top The Voices Please

Remember not so long ago when you used to get those big fold-out maps at the gas station or AAA (that once opened would never fold back the same way again) to plot out a road trip? Remember when the person driving trusted (mostly) the person navigating to help them find their way as they followed the map lines with their fingers, often shouting out "Turn here!" at the last possible moment? Remember when you were the only voice (other than the occasional backseat driver) giving direction?

Me neither.

My husband is semi-obsessed with the voice of the GPS. For years I have gotten us from Point A to Point B with nary a detour (even after he got into a heated highway battle with a 14-wheeler and the map flew out of my hands through the open window only to be likely ripped to shreds somewhere on I-95), and yet now he insists on having me hold my phone and let the voice tell him what to do. What’s the fascination? I've been telling him what to do for almost 30 years. Oh - right... back to the driving part.

We are now taking fairly frequent trips to Pennsylvania to see OK and The Boy as much as possible, and as I've barely (hah) mentioned, to bring YK to the college (three times now) that she hasn't even started attending yet (four more weeks. Gulp.). Each time we take the trip we somehow manage to go a different way. Often there is a side trip involved for family, causing us to come at PA from different angles. I don't necessarily find that the GPS on my Droid thinks "safety" as it chooses our route. No, it seems to be geared more along the lines of "demolition derby."

I prefer to drive on many of the long distance trips as long as it's in daylight. It keeps me from having to be the passenger in charge of the Phone With The Directions when I would much rather be the one reading them out loud. I have a nice voice, really, and my volume is easier to control - no need to keep hitting the dang bar on the side of the phone to shut me up. I will just stop talking and stare tearfully out the passenger side window if I get yelled at for leading us astray. And the GPS doesn't always cooperate. Take this past weekend for example.

We were visiting friends in Massachusetts... driving toward Cape Cod... on a summer Saturday. Not bright. We left almost an hour later than we had talked about (but not appropriately planned) and were hit with the equivalent of whatever small country lays claim to the worst people in cars (calling them drivers is too kind) on the planet. Suffice it to say I witnessed vehicles swerving, stretching, bending and contorting around other cars/trucks/toll booths in ways that would have made Gumby jealous.

Around what should have been the almost halfway point we switched seats and I drove. This meant S was on the passenger seat letting our GPS friend do all the talking. That is, until he forgot during a long pause that it was still on. Just as I was about to ask how far we were from a certain exit, the GPS spoke up. I lowered the radio. Here's how it went.

S:                  What are you doing?? (grabbing for radio dial to turn it up)

Me:                  I'm trying to hear the GPS! (using control on steering wheel control to turn it down)

S:                  I'm trying to hear what they were saying on the radio!

Me:                  What are you talking about?? That was the GPS!

S:                  Oh... I thought they were making some kind of announcement...

Me:                  THE ANNOUNCEMENT WAS FROM THE GPS!!!!

How do you growl and laugh at the same time? Leave it to me. But once we stopped laughing and I could focus and the GPS (knowing it was dealing with idiots here) made its "announcement" again, the ride went pretty smoothly- until a little while later when I listened to someone in the car who said, "There's probably a rest stop soon," just as I was leaning toward an exit with a few places where I could use the rest room. From that point on it was downhill, and not in a nice coasting kind of way.

The route we had chosen seemed like it was right outside of Boston. It was actually the closest you could get to the heart of Boston without being on Route 1. It wasn't until maybe five minutes before we hit the tunnels (I hate tunnels) that the time on the GPS suddenly jumped from our destination being one hour and twenty minutes to two hours and something... I don't remember - I was too busy frothing at the mouth and clutching my bladder. We drove (slower than we could have walked) through the tunnel, after which we sat (basically parked) in what started out as six lanes and seemed to get swallowed into three. At some point during this interminable delay as I was grumbling to myself about my stomach cramping, S oh so wisely announced, "You don't do well in traffic."


Immediately aware that making this observation about a woman who is now writhing in the seat behind the steering wheel and looking for a Port-O-Let in the middle of I-93 was probably not the swiftest move, he clammed up following my ranting response - which probably saved his life.

Eventually escaping from the congestion and seeing hope on the horizon (in the form of exit signs) I chose to find a handy mart or some such place right off the highway to use the facilities (by that time I had to send S in to scout the place out to avoid an extremely embarrassing scene if I couldn't head - no pun intended - straight to a rest room). I growled (not followed by a laugh this time) at Little Miss GPS to SHUT UP when she tried to reroute us.

We got close to where we were going when we ran into another little snag. Our charming directional unit had directed us to the name of the street with “Avenue” on the end and refused to even acknowledge there was a similar street right around there somewhere with “Lane” on the end. Desperate, we called our host who “walked” us through directions to their house and literally stood at the end of their road so we couldn’t miss them (honestly, I wouldn’t have put it past us to still manage to go right by). We tripped out of our car an hour later than anticipated, but there were welcoming hugs and the food was hot on the grill, plus the dessert I brought had remained in tact. It was a great afternoon meeting new folks and reminiscing with old friends. Ironically we were on the road more than off that day due to the fact that we had to be home the same evening, but it was truly worth it.

Words cannot express how relieved I was that everyone else had also reached their destination and stayed put that evening, which meant no traffic issues. It was smooth sailing back to Maine (with a couple of pit stops, naturally).

I just hope it’s a long time before any electronic device tries to give me directions. I just might reply with a direction or two of my own.

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