Sunday, January 19, 2014

Let GPS be your co-pilot

We'd been down this road before. Literally.

The directions were clear. I was supposed to take a left.

I had taken a left, though, and it lead to Nowhereville. So I took a right, which lead to NeverNeverLand.

“If you reach Maple, you've gone too far,” the directions explained.

It didn't matter if I backtracked, drove as slow as molasses invoked the name of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, every turn seemed to lead to Maple.

Up until this very moment the 25-minute drive to an unfamiliar school in an unfamiliar town using an unfamiliar roadway had been nearly uneventful.

I had taken the toll road. Something I rarely ever do because my husband's car is the one that has the magical box affixed to its windshield that keeps the driver from having to pay in sticky, coffee-stained currency, which the children have helped fish from between the cracks in the seats while we wait in the inordinately long line at the tollbooth.

Oh sure, navigation was clunky. I had eschewed the GPS device and emailed computer-generated driving directions to my phone, choosing a mapping program that was the most technologically-deficient-user-friendly.

Which, in hindsight, may not have been wise ... to throw caution (and familiarity) to the wind ... all for the promise of 20 minutes shaved off the commute.

Because, at the side of the road, where I'd pulled over to scrutinize the complicated web of instructions MapQuest had provided, the kids were growing restless and I was growing frustrated.

“I don't think you have any idea where we are,” said Ittybit in the sing-song voice that usually makes me wish our minivan had a sidecar. “We're going to miss my game.”

Her brother agreed. “You should have stopped at the school we drove past five hours ago,” he chimed, completely unaware that five hours ago he was still tucked snuggly in bed. “That was probably it.”

I shouldn't have been surprised.

In order to email myself the directions the mapping program made me prove my humanness by having me click on an ad and then type in a sentence from the script, which only appeared once the ad was launched.

“Captcha's gotcha!” I grumpily thought as I jumped through the hoop.

I had to be close, I thought, giving up on the driving directions and scrolling through old emails looking for the address.

A few minutes later, with the phone and all its useless apps firmly in the sweaty palms of The Champ, we pulled into the school parking lot … which was on the right … about three miles past Maple.

Turns out it the directions were just wrong. Plain and simple.

It's times like these that make me miss paper maps and the homespun directions that used to come from real humans.

“The take Route A until you get to Route B and then take a right and drive for three miles. You can't miss us. We're on the left. … White house, black shutters. A green car will be in the driveway. If you get lost give me a call.”

But I'm too young to tell Google Maps to get off my lawn.

That should be my father's job.

It was shortly after my technologically-challenged trip to a town two counties away that he called expressing concern with a trip he was planning to the D.C. area.

“I'm worried something's wrong with my brain,” he said sheepishly, acknowledging that he'd used a navigational service to map his trip, thinking it was better than the GPS.

“I can't make heads or tales of these directions. They have me going in circles and going about a half hour out of the way… they even want me to get off of an Exit numbered 43-44. Does that make sense to you?”

“Honestly, I think your brain is fine. But do it a favor, don't give it a headache with these directions. Let the GPS be your co-pilot.”

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