Thursday, April 15, 2010


Sometimes when I sit down to write I start going in one direction but end up taking a different path. When this happens I am surprised at where I find myself.

I try not to resist the new direction as it is usually better than the first I had begun. Perhaps if I stuck to an outline I would stick to one road – but that seems too rigid. I want to be open to new ideas, so I follow them to see where they take me.

I actually like to travel that way too. It’s fun to take a new, unexpected route that will get me to the same spot (eventually). I can get turned around easily and will often drive in the wrong direction for a while. In some circles this is known as being lost.

A month or so ago I got a tool (or toy if you’d like) to help me navigate. It’s a GPS instrument. GPS stands for Global Positioning System, but it could stand for Go Places Soon, Get Positively Screwed-up, or Get Passengers Steamed. With information received from satellites this utensil knows where you are and how to get somewhere else.

This is the closest most men are ever going to get to asking directions. In my life I have had my share of people telling me where to go – now I can get it done in 40 different languages, because this gadget can give you directions in a language other than English – just like America. You can be told what to do by a male or female voice. It’s much more annoying when it’s placed in the back seat. For American-style English you can choose from either Jack or Jill. These two come in handy when you get thirsty going up hills.

This little box is full of possibilities. You can select the language to match the ethnic flavor of the restaurant you are going to. I think it would be fun to close my eyes (not while I was driving of course) and pick an arbitrary language. Then, stopping the first person I saw I would hold up the GPS and ask, “Excuse me, I’m lost. Do you speak (Cantonese)?”

This thing is really quite amazing. It displays the posted speed limit along side the rate you are going (my two numbers don’t always match). I suspect that someday we will be ratted out by our electronic devices. Our mouse will point to us in a line-up.

Different settings allow for different scenarios. There is the Eco setting. I think it probably tells you to park your car and walk. Some of the settings will help you avoid heavy traffic and road construction. Other than telling you to forget it and take the bus, it will route you in ways that would never be chosen by humans.

Not too long ago I was taking my family to a wedding in Minneapolis during rush hour. It probably wasn’t the best time to give my new tool a trial run. I had a pretty good idea how to get there but I turned the route choice over to my new traveling companion.

The devilish device took us on Lake Street into the Uptown area of Minneapolis, then on Hennepin Avenue, then onto Interstate Highway 94, off on Third Street and then a quick right on University Avenue where we arrived at our destination on time. It helps to have an adventurous spirit.

I wonder if Robert Frost would have liked this implement. It would have given him many opportunities to travel roads not normally taken.

No comments:

Post a Comment