I’ve had a GPS in my car for ten years. It was invaluable to me during my years in Boston, where the big dig meant a myriad of road closures and poorly marked detours, and here in D.C. with its tangle of barricades and one way streets. It is also great for finding the closest Starbucks.
I would, however, change a few things. First, it needs a “backstop” mode, for when I have a desired route and the GPS’s role is to make sure I don’t mess it up. I hate it when it has some other backwards notion about how to get me to my destination and keeps telling me to make a U-turn or take a side road in order to do things their way. I already have a mother, I don’t need my GPS telling me there’s a better route than the one I’ve chosen.
It also needs some global rules, like, I don’t care where I’m going, don’t take me through New York City unless I’m actually going to New York City. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, unless it takes you over the George Washington Bridge.
I’d also change that snippy voice that says “recalculating.” It may sound like a one crisply articulated word, but what Ms. Garmin is really saying is, “You idiot. Now I have to do this all over again. Do you think you could actually listen this time?”
I’d also like more information when choosing a route. When my son was little, we had six or seven different ways to get home from school, depending upon our mood. There was the “tunnel way,” his personal favorite, or the “pretty way,” which had the trees, or the “rainbow way,” our route on rainy days for obvious reasons. There was the “hill way,” that took us past the park he liked, which always included an extra stop. My favorite, however, was the “long way,” because getting my son from school was my favorite part of the day, and I got him all to myself. The GPS only gives me options for shortest, or quickest, or avoid tolls and freeways. I’m sure my mother would like one that avoided left turns.
The real down side, however, is that with the GPS as my guide, it’s hard to get lost.
It’s amazing what you can find when straying from the known path. A flower farm. A park with a particularly steep slide. A creamery with Devil Dog ice cream. A hillside lined with grape vines so even it looks like they used a ruler to plant them. Stopping at a roadside stand for directions and getting fresh picked sweet corn and a cherry pie that doesn’t quite make it all the way home. A rural backyard completely covered with pink flamingos.
A GPS has is no “surprise me” function, no “have an adventure” function, no “I don’t have anything else to do today, and I’ve always wondered what’s out here” function. It’s not to say we can’t do these things. It’s that we don’t. It’s not efficient.
Efficiency is overrated.
Going through life cleanly navigating from event to event might be expedient, but I’m afraid of what I might miss along the way. Sometimes I only think I’m lost. In reality, I’m on the path I was meant to be on all along, I just didn’t know it yet. Who is to say that a wrong turn is actually wrong? The GPS, if we let it. I think the one in my car might be the least of my problems.
So every once in a while, I turn the GPS off. I can always turn it back on. You never know when you need to find a Starbucks.
Words by J.B.Everett