Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Vagaries of Modern Technology

Specifically the GPS.

 It used to be - in the old days when dinosaurs roamed the land - that when you wanted to travel by car from point A to point B, you opened up an extremely large piece of paper called a map.  From there, you figured out where you were starting from, where you were going and how to get there.  Sometimes, you picked a good route, sometimes not.  Sometimes you'd get together with someone who'd been that way before, compare notes and problem solve a different, hopefully better, way to go.

Then there were trip tiks courtesy of AAA or CAA - which, although bulky and cumbersome, had their purpose.  With the advent of the World Wide Web came sites like MapQuest which were even handier to use.  No going in advance to AAA and ordering the trip tik to pick up.  The information could be printed off in the comfort of your own home and used like the trip tik, only much less cumbersome, with the additional bonus that while the trip tik only got you to the city you wanted to go to while sites like MapQuest directed you door-to-door.  No fuss.  No mess.  Of course, MapQuest has it's own vagaries like the time we were trying to get to my cousin's condo and ended up in the development beside hers with the directions indicating that we were to go off road, through a pond, up an embankment, through a barrier and onto her parking lot.  Somehow, we didn't think that the owners of either property would approve.

GPS's have their vagaries too.  As we found out on a recent trip.  The first trip with our new GPS.  The initial part of the trip resembled a honeymoon phase as we got used to each other mostly by trial and error.  I found that Maggie, as we came to call her, had a few quirks that our previous system did not have.  We could not change her voice.  But she was able to tell her nice things like elevation, speed, miles left and time left.  We could even program which one of the four we wanted.  We could even have her calculate in metric or miles.  Bonus since we live in Canada and often travel in the U.S.

She got us to our first two destinations just like she knew where she was going.  No routes through ponds, up roadless hills or through barriers.  I was liking her more each time we used her.

Oh, she did mess up once or twice, but that wasn't really her fault, there was road construction and exits weren't there that were supposed to be.  She corrected herself quickly, and quietly, getting on with the program, pretending that she hadn't messed up.  Since she was being so civil, we decided not to blame her.

Then we reached a slowdown and a snowstorm at approximately the same time.  Maggie courteously let us know that there was a delay and suggested we take a detour.  We figured she knew what she was doing, so we said "yes".  Big mistake.  Never trust a GPS when it suggests a detour.  The delay was supposed to be approximately 20 minutes.  The detour, bumper to bumper, up hill and down (did I mention that we were in the mountains of West Virginia at the time and the map in the Atlas we no help?), going no more than 15-30 mph at the best of times took over an hour.  Since we were in totally unfamiliar territory, we were at her mercy.  We had no choice but to follow her as we took the royal tour of Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania (wherever that is) - block by miserable, snow-filled block.  I was never so glad to see an interstate in my life when we finally joined back up with the road we detoured from.

I have vowed never again to make that mistake.

Maggie, I'm sorry.  I love you - but I definitely don't trust you completely.

Modern technology may be great - but it is definitely flawed.


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