Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Satellites Are Laughing

Big Dave, Old Dave, and Vivi
I don't even know where you'd get a nice fold-out road map anymore. I've given up. When I needed to steer my rental car from the Pittsburgh airport to Big Dave and Vivi's house, I went ahead and printed out the Mapquest directions, plus the map. I need the map.

I need to get a sense  of what topographical squiggle I'm skirting. I need to get my personal magnets aligned with the poles. I want a decent directional clue so that when I get off-track I have an idea where to veer.

Our pioneer forebears didn't always have a map. They had to make educated guesses and reconcile obstinate hooves and mountain passes. Their sense of topography was more immediate. They could see what needed to be overcome, could suspicion their way to water. Then they passed along the information or left wagon tracks for the next group. Sometimes someone would whomp up a map, but it was likely to be partly fictional. They had skills we have lost; on the other hand, a bunch of them ended up being vulture food, too.

Big Dave told me to forget about the map. He considered it unlikely I would be able to machete my way through Pittsburgh. Couldn't be done. "Get a navigation app," he said. Well. I only have the vaguest notion about getting apps. I have about two on my iPad, which is why, I think, I have been so disappointed in my iPad. Right now, it's not much of an improvement over one of those old-timey magic drawing boards that erased when you peeled up the plastic. But ever since I surrendered to modern technology, forsaking the good old reliable road map, I've been unsure of myself. Maybe he's right. Maybe I would find myself in an eternal gyre of vehicles in the middle of the city and have to be rescued. I looked for an app.

Navigator it is! First one that popped up, with a four an a half star rating, and free, so I bought it. I put in Big Dave's address and fired it up at the airport, and off we went. It went well at first, and got me to the freeway. I was a little perturbed that a British woman was in charge. She seemed to have the potential to be judgmental. I made a note to see if they had a Southern version. "Oh, now, sugar--you done overshot. Okay, hon, sit tight, don't you fret none. We'll see you right. Would you like some pie?"

Once we got on the freeway--I'm including my British friend--she clammed up altogether. Didn't even deign to hum. After a few miles I found myself grabbing the phone and shaking it a little in case she was napping on the job. We entered a tunnel. "GPS signal lost," she barked. Hurray! I thought. You're still here! And, after a moment, shit.

But she piped right back up when we came out of the tunnel and had all sorts of new suggestions for me. I was to take the Slip Road. Soon. Real soon. Now! I lurched onto the exit ramp and looked for a sign for Slip Road. Okay, I realized after a while, this is British jargon for exit ramp. I can adjust.

What I can't adjust to is the raucous accordion bleat that violently erupts out of my phone, like a bugling car horn that precedes an imminent collision--the kind of noise that makes your hair fall out first and think about it later. What the fuck, I inquire politely of my Navigator. I slalom over the lane for the next quarter mile while peering into my phone to find out what I'm being alerted to. There is nothing. Nothing whatsoever. Not the next random time, either. Or the entirely unpredictable time after that. I ignore it and put it down to episodic digital flatulence, but I make a note to have a stern word with the Help button once I'm safely delivered to a sofa.

On the next trip, I load up my Navigator with a destination and take a Mapquest printout with me just for protection, and all is well. I have studied the printed directions. Basically I get on I-79 for eighty miles. The British lady finds me the freeway. I begin to relax. Fifteen miles later she wants me to take the Slip Road again. I'm so startled that I do. If I'd bothered to install the Southern voice, I might have objected. Y'all real sure about that?

Now I'm toodling through some unnamed neighborhood, past strip malls, past lube shops, past a guy on the sidewalk wearing a foam pizza suit and waving a sign, and I begin to become morose. Just as I decide to hit up a gas station for directions, she finds me the freeway and sends me back up. The same damn freeway I was already on, one exit later.

What the fuck, I query.

Ten miles later she's doing it again. Go fuck yourself, I suggest. You're fired.

It does sort of work. But I don't like it. I feel like I've been digitally blindfolded and spun, and I'm wandering around holding a donkey tail in front of me like a moron. I'm a prairie dog rooting around underground with no native prairie-dog sensibilities, popping up in the right place most of the time but with no idea how I got there.

Used to be, I got lost every now and then. Now I never know where I am.

62 comments:

  1. If people keep relying on GPS to get them where they're going, they are going to lose any sense of direction that they might still possess. THEN where will they be when the zombie apocalypse happens and the satellites can't communicate with us anymore, and there are no fold-up maps because people stopped using them? How will the survivors be able to get to the low-populated areas to avoid the zombies? They will be zombie chow by the time they figure out which way the sun rises, and which direction moss grows on a tree.

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    1. Ooo! Ooo! I know which direction moss grows on a tree! Out!

      Hm. Maybe that's what the accordion bleat is. A zombie warning.

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  2. I'm with you there. I need a map when going to a new place for the first time, because I have no confidence unless I can pre-plan the route. Those GPS devices work on algorithms, which are getting very good these days, but algorithms don't have common sense. They will do things like take you off the freeway and put you back on the same freeway a bit later.

    And that's especially true of the wild canyon landscape of downtown Portland, with all those one-way streets and turns you can't make -- obstacles which our pioneer ancestors never had to face. One wrong turn downtown, and without a map I'd be totally disoriented and doomed to wander endlessly through the narrow pathways between concrete cliffs until, at last, the vultures descended for me.

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    1. "Idiot! I TOLD you you can't turn left from the Donner Pass!"

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  3. PS: Printing out a map from the internet is the best option, though. You can choose exactly what area is covered, and at what scale.

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    1. Yeah, that works for me. But I do like big ole road maps. I want the big picture.

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    2. Fold out road maps are still available at some rural gas stations here in Australia, but they don't cover Portland.

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    3. That's actually useful information. If I tried to drive through downtown Portland without a map, I think I could very well end up in Australia.

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  4. Murr. It's not the British lady's fault. I'm from Pittsburgh. That's how they roll. http://musingsfromdave.blogspot.fr/2012/08/a-bridge-too-far.html?m=1

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    1. Well y'all do have three rivers, you're going to want a few (hundred) bridges. I'm not letting the British lady off the hook yet.

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  5. ...which I see you've already read. Hah! Well, on another note, just use google maps. It's free.

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    1. I can't read that sign of yours (BELLEVUE Live Worship Shop) without making modifiers out of the live and worship.

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  6. I liked google maps until the morning I turned on my phone and watched the navigator app slip right off the screen. It's now several instructions down in google maps. Or, out of my reach. I print out instructions now, and I don't use google maps.

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    1. I don't know exactly what you mean, but it reminds me of when I got a computer to begin with, and tried to learn how to do word processing on it. My chief aggravation was how whatever document I was working on would just disappear. I never knew where it went. I was like a person with an untrained dog, running around the neighborhood not able to get it to come back. Yelling, pleading, etc.

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  7. These navigators are vast in their ignorance. Remember when Apple introduced theirs and folks got lost all over the place! We used Garmin and mount it on the car windshield and she is right about 95% of the time. We an turn her off when she gets testy. I have a navigator built into my new car, but I still use my phone to see if they agree!

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    1. I am officially going to use my app as a last resort. I really think I do a better job myself.

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  8. Yet another reason I don't travel.

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    1. You don't have an app for your horse??

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  9. Hilarious. I've heard a Southern Belle GPS voice and it's not quite as warm and welcoming as you'd think. Frankly, my dear.. she doesn't give a damn.

    Thanks to Joeh for having me take the Slip Road, directing me to this post.

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    1. So I am assuming you're lost over here! Stick around. I'll make us some pie.

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  10. We get some pleasure from messing with the stroppy piece of work in our sat-nat. The resigned voice with which she says 'Recalculating route' is a delight to hear.
    And yes on the big map front.

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    1. Forty years ago, I would not have been able to understand the phrase "messing with the stroppy piece of work in our sat-nat." Actually, I'm still not sure.

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    2. Translation required? Or are you messing with my head? Not difficult to do.

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    3. As soon as I get "stroppy" and "sat-nat" I think I'll be in good shape.

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    4. A stroppy person is one who is easily offended or annoyed - and tends to be belligerant English slang - perhaps derived from obstreperous. And sat-nat is a typo. Sat nav - for satellite navigation. The voice inside ours really, really doesn't like it when we take 'wrong turns'.

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    5. I'm going to try to use that soon. Slide it in the ol' brain pan.

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  11. I finally got rid of the old gal who kept yelling "recalculating" at me every time I made a turn - or at least the ones she didn't like. But since I have no navigator, like my GPS for the car to tell me what to do so I'm not trying to watch a map and the road.

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    1. It sounds like you HAVE a navigator, then.

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  12. I'm with Jayne - this is why I don't travel. Along with a dozen other reasons.

    The last time I printed map directions from Google, I managed to get my husband (the driver) lost in an area which he basically knew. I know - talent, right?

    Love this: "First one that popped up, with a four an a half star rating, and free, so I bought it."

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    1. Another reason not to travel: constipation. Or is it just me?

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    2. No. Also, the food, hotels, heat/cold, bright sun, rain/snow, sitting for ages, price of gas, car problems, lack of bathroom in the car. I think that's it. I am a delicate flower, dontcha know.

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    3. I need to clarify the "no". I was answering your question "is it just me". :)

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    4. I am informed the phrase for "constipated while traveling" is "journey proud." You're welcome.

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    5. Ive always thought of it as "needing home field advantage."

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    6. God, yes. Actually, I don't get it at all. I've always been top-notch in that department, but put me on a plane, and everything shuts down for a few days.

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  13. I get all my maps from Triple A!! I have no sense of direction at all. One time my husband asked me which way was north and I pointed up to the sky!! I use a GPS and do love it, though sometimes its pronunciations of street names makes you have to figure out a puzzle. If you do not, it does tell you to turn...NOW!!

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    1. I've caught mine in an out-and-out lie, and pronunciation had nothing to do with it.

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  14. I think you should install the Southern voice version, she sounds lovely and offers pie! Probably won't have you tootling all over neighbourhoods you don't need to see either, she'll just keep you on that freeway until there is a pie shop looming.

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  15. Murr, I am old and technology resistant; but get a Tom Tom. The days of following maps has past. If you can respond to commands like 'Turn right in 100 feet....turn right now' then you can navigate accurately anywhere in North America.

    There were some good things about earlier times but driving through a city with a map spread across your steering wheel is not one of them: "Was that my turn? Oh, shit! Where am I now? Maybe we should pull over and ask someone..."
    Sound familiar?
    You have now arrived at your destination.
    get a Tom Tom.

    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. Actually, the "turn right NOW" one can get you in all sorts of trouble. It's entirely possible I shouldn't be driving anymore.

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  16. My fav part of any instructions is "if you get to ______, you've gone too far."

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    1. I know, and how many times in our lives have we heard THAT, right?

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  17. Replies
    1. WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU, JEANNINE JENKINS? YOUR CHRISTMAS CARD BOUNCED BACK.

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    2. Making sausage in Chicago these days.

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    3. Oh for Pete's Sake. Get in touch. Not enough information.

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  18. We just got back from a long road trip. Husband loves the technology of our car's built=in navigator.( He sometimes runs it even when he knows where he is going-"just like to see how it tells me I should be going"). I prefer the maps. We had our granddaughter with us in the back seat. She had the portable navigator. So, we used all three on the trip. Happy to report we never got lost once! Had to make a few U turns, but not lost.

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    1. I've run the Navigator when I knew where I was going too, just so I could yell at it with confidence.

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  19. Heavens to Betsy, isn't there a big ole bookstore thete in Portlandia? That's where we get our best atlases and road maps from. Triple A still gives them to members, too.

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    1. Not a member, but that's several votes right there for AAA, so I'll buy them if I have to. Shit, I remember when gas stations gave you green soap in a dinosaur shape.

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  20. I have no sense of direction - I need a map turned in the direction of the road and where I'm driving - and there are still no guaranties. My son got me a GPS after MY trip to Pittsburgh. It's pretty good although I argue with it a lot. As for Pittsburgh, I think that city is set up so you DO get lost, particularly trying to get out of the city. At the end of an hour of trying to get to my motel, I know I passed the same mini-malls several times! Neither the GPS or the AAA maps had any idea what they were doing.

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    1. I actually do have a good sense of direction, but one time I got all balled up right here in town because I had my map upside down. Cripes.

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  21. a great post. well worth joe's nomination for a POTW!

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  22. I always want top have the hard copy, especially when I have been computer lost a few times.

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    1. I GET the map. I don't get the barked directions!

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  23. Thank you for letting me laugh along with you. I'd so love a southern voice to direct me...it might help me relax while navigating unknown areas around the bayous here. Great post!

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  24. Visiting from Hilary's place…

    I am still old fashioned and carry a big comprehensive map. I used to print directions and still do sometimes to go along with the GPS. I have friends who admit that they have no idea how to read a map--sad I think.

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    1. I have the whole dang Rand-McNally US atlas road maps. I know exactly where I am when my car breaks down. Because that's what cars used to do, back in the days we followed maps.

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