Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stumping the GPS

GPS and I are still getting to know each other.  I refer to her in feminine personal pronouns, but have not given her a name, because...well, that seems insane.  She knows a great deal, it is true, but what she doesn't know is the particular idiosyncrasies of local traffic patterns.  What she doesn't understand is that I do know them, and when I disregard her instructions, she becomes a little pushy.

It is fair that she doesn't know how to drive in Massachusetts.  It takes a lifetime to master.  And it is hard to see from outer space.  There are certain times of day when you can not legally take a certain left hand turn -- certain places where you wouldn't want to.  You can see why, if you tell her to calculate the fastest time, she will tell you to "Take Ramp.  Onto Eye-NINETY-five.  On right."  But that's madness.  And she certainly doesn't know there is no entrance to the Macaroni Grill off Middlesex Turnpike, no matter what the address says.

I finally short-circuited her by meeting Mrs B for lunch at an out-of-the-way place halfway between us.  Even the Googles had some confusing options for how to get there and shave points.  But I knew my way, so my strategy was to enter the address, and not turn GPS on until I just need to know where the last turn is, or which driveway.  She usually falls for this.

But on this particular day, she wouldn't budge.  She wanted my to get on an Interstate bypass and I prefer state roads.  Not realizing that I was still going in the direction of my destination, she became fixated on turning me around to get to that on-ramp.  She doesn't say "turn around," though, does she?  She tries to trick ya, with a lot flimflam about neighborhood streets ("Turn left on Birch st, then turn left")  That's a U-Turn, sister.  And I'm on to you.

Here's my Future Design Consideration, Gamin.
When I pass your suggested turn, say, "You have passed the turn.  Reverse direction or continue 11 miles to destination."  Perhaps GPS can not calculate that quickly.  And perhaps we can't listen that quickly and make a decision and still control the car (while texting and facilitating a conference call).   But she can simply say "Reverse direction."  or "Take next available U-Turn."  Instead she wants me to turn back through every neighborhood instead of actually recalculating what route I might be on.

The Boston Globe recently ran this puzzle (which naturally was called "You Can't Get There From Here,") that challenges readers to identify the sections of road where you can not actually drive to a spot 20 yards from you.  I challenge GPS to this duel.  I just want to hear her sigh "Surrendering."  Just once.


  1. I am still trying to train my GPS (Rebecca; she has an Australian accent. What?) Meanwhile, my daughter tried "directing" me to the toy dept in Walmart yesterday in Rebecca's voice.

    "In two aisles, take a left turn. Take your next left. Proceed five aisles and take a legal U-turn." OY.

  2. I am so resistant to these new fangled gadgets. Do we really need them? I tend to be high and mighty for a few years longer than I should be, then play catch up for a few years cursing myself that I didn't cave in sooner. Ex: CDs, Cell phone, DVDs, laptop.

    I have managed to live my life without GPS and have indeed, spent all of it in Massachusetts. My hubby had one briefly (with a Mr. T voice) but it was stolen from his car. Neither do I want to invite that nonsense into my life (in addition to my fear of broken glass).

    Lastly, I got excited for a moment when you wrote you were seeing Mrs. B! I thought of Bradlee's and clicked on the link to discover she was not one and the same. Though I am sure your Mrs. B is lovely.

  3. Twyla - my gps - suggests that you set your nameless sage to "most direct" - it's somewhere in the setting - rather than "quickest" route. That MAY help with her demanding that you hop onto I95 at every opportunity - or not!

    She - Twyla - also gets pretty insistent that we "make a U turn, make a U turn, MAKE A U TURN!!!", when local knowledge causes us to drive on by her chosen turn. She has, however, gotten us to strange places without incident on many occasions.

    I see her more as a safety feature when I am traveling alone. (And as someone who knows were every Starbucks on the plant is!) Good luck.

  4. Hi again! Just stopping by to let you know I have an award (or two) for you at my place:

  5. I had the same experience Saturday going to meet the RH group for lunch. My as yet unnamed guide wanted to send me to the Pochahontas Parkway ($2.75 toll!) which I REFUSED to do. Nor did I take her 'suggestions' for ways to turn around. However, because I was not sure about the exit off the bypass road I did take, I finally followed her instructions -- through some country roads and when I found the place it was spitting distance from the exit I would take to the bypass to go home. You really do have to have some idea of where you are supposed to go and then use your judgment. However, when I got on the wrong road going home from the airport in December, I was very glad I had 'her.' M


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