Published in the Rains County Leader on December 11, 2018:
The invention of the GPS or Global Positioning system was a wonderful thing for those of us who are directionally impaired even when we have a map in front of us. The system was first used by the U.S. military, but it was released for civilian use in the 1980s. It’s accessible to anyone that has a GPS receiver, and now almost all smart phones and newer cars come with GPS receivers. Many of the younger generations have no idea what a Rand McNally Road Atlas is for or how to use a Mapsco, but they can put an address into a GPS with their eyes closed.
David has always been interested in electronics – always reading all the latest release stories and consumer reports so he can make an informed decision when he decides to make a purchase. A GPS was on his Christmas list in 2007, shortly after we bought our motor home. He thought it would be invaluable for locating remote RV campgrounds and not-to-be-missed points of interest that are off the beaten path. The GPS lived up to his expectations – most of the time. It had its moments, though.
There was the time when that somewhat irritating voice directed us into a dead end at the end of a just barely two-lane road. That situation isn’t too bad in a passenger vehicle, but when you’re in a forty-foot motor home followed by an extra twenty feet of tow dolly and miscellaneous vehicles, it’s not a lot of fun. The motor home has a rear-view camera, but backing up more than a few feet without unloading and detaching the tow dolly was not a viable option. After making several scouting tours around the area, checking out shoulders, ditches, and various road hazards, David scooted in behind the wheel, I took up a position where he could see me in the rear-view mirrors, and we executed what was possibly the first sixty-point u-turn in history.
The GPS wasn’t completely crazy. By looking on the paper map, we figured out that the road we were on continued in the same direction about 100 feet beyond where it came to a dead end. Still, our trust had been shaken, and for a while, we double checked before we blindly followed that hidden voice into unknown territory. We still have the same GPS, and we still use it from time to time – but it’s no longer supported by updates, so we’re more likely to use our phones or the GPS in the KIA. Unfortunately those are not infallible either.
Sunday night we had our SISTAs annual Christmas party. SISTAs is the Women’s Ministryat my church, and in addition to serving our church family and our community, we love to have fun. Our December meeting is usually held at someone’s home where we eat more than we should, hug a lot, and laugh ourselves silly as we exchange white elephant in a crazy gift exchange. This year we went to a new home, and since I was driving myself, I wanted to be sure I knew where I was going. I entered the address into my phone contacts and then hit “Directions.” The GPS feature popped up, telling me it would take me twelve minutes to travel the 6.7 miles to the host home. I was all set.
About fifteen minutes before the party was set to begin, I got in the car, hit resume navigation, and headed out. I had an idea where the home was, so I was surprised when the GPS told me to turn north on Hwy 19 instead of south. However, since I frequently have no idea where I am, I trusted the electronic instructions. I follow Hwy 19 for a few miles until I crossed the Lake Fork Bridge, and then I turned right on the first county road. I made a couple more turns and passed some very nice homes that backed up to the lake, “the voice” still had not mentioned County Road 2110 which was supposed to be my destination. City girls like wide roads and street lights, but these roads were dark and narrow – and when a deer jumped across in front of me I began to get really nervous. Finally, the GPS said, “You have reached your destination. County Road 3500 is on your right.” That was not what I wanted to hear.
There wasn’t a shoulder on the road, but there wasn’t any traffic either, so I just stopped where I was and checked my phone. I had entered the address correctly, so I had no idea why my not-so-smart-phone had stranded me in the middle of nowhere. I wasn’t without resources, though. I found the navigation mode on the car video screen and entered the correct address. After two tries and two “No Results” messages, I resorted to old-school technology and called my hostess. She gave me simple directions, and I arrived while there was still plenty of food.
I don’t know if the bad directions were the result of operator error of if, like Kitty, the GPS simple prefers David to me. Either way, there really are times when I hate my GPS. Sunday was one of those times.