Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Travels with Gertie

Terry Stephan

Changing Lanes:GPS
Gertie travels with Emmy and I, she is mouthy, complains and tells us where to go. Gertie repeats herself often, using the same phrases and words, time after time.
In the car, Gertie interrupts conversations, always changing the subject to her favorite; driving, and driving directions. She will critically point out several times that a turn is coming up, and then admonish the driver if, in her opinion, you missed or made a wrong turn.
You might be asking yourself why we would continue to travel with such a companion. It is because giving us direction in our life is her sole purpose. Gertie is the name we have given to our GPS unit, or more accurately, to the female who talks to us from inside our GPS.
We have used a GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) system on a laptop computer for a number of years. We often camp in National Forests or other publicly owned lands off the beaten path. We couldn’t afford to buy the maps to cover all the remote areas we traveled to, so the laptop GPS made sense.
With its large data bank of innumerable streets and alleys, it has also helped guide us through towns and cities when we’ve encountered traffic tie-ups. We left the voice option off.
Our new tiny touch screen GPS is very user friendly but unlike our old GPS lacks detail. The voice option is almost a necessity.
I ran errands in Buffalo the other day. I needed to go to a business on Seneca Street near Smith, then up to Elmwood and Lafayette.
When I was done on Elmwood, I gave Gertie the Seneca Street information. She wanted me to return by way of the I-190. That may have been the fastest route but I wanted to see some of the city neighborhoods I had not driven through for a while.
Gertie told me to turn on the next street to the right and I ignored her. When you don’t turn where she tells you, she musters all the sarcasm she can into the one word “recalculating”, which she uses it a lot when I’m driving.
She told me to turn right on the next street and I kept going straight. Several more times this happened. She kept saying, “recalculating” every time I refused to turn. I swear her voice became more irritated and critical with each recurrence.
It may be a bit perverse on my part, but suffering Gertie’s disapproval so long, I felt a little gleeful jubilance each time I refused to do her bidding.
You’re probably thinking I’m giving more critical human attributes to Gertie than she deserves but consider this. There is a good possibility that tucked away in some GPS manufacturing cubical somewhere is a very computer-savvy GPS programmer.
I imagine this person has never taken driving criticism well, particularly when it comes to following directions. Occasionally she has a little chuckle knowing that somewhere someone is putting up with Gertie’s snide “recalculating” repetition.
At this moment, there may be a completely new batch of little GPS’s reprogrammed, a bit nastier. When an unsuspecting new GPS owner fails to turn when told to, it will say, “recalculating”, with more verbal venom each time. Then it will follow with a quick short, single word, “JERK”.
I can just see the programmer, at home, sipping a glass of wine after work, thinking about the “little extra” she put into the new GPS line this time around and smiling, a gleeful jubilant little smile….

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