Saturday, November 21, 2015

GPS: Global Perplexing System

Confession Time:  I love maps.  One of my best friends is a geographer and I am continually amazed at how often we study the same events, but where I properly place these events in a chronological matrix, my friend is overly concerned with location.  He stubbornly resists my efforts to educate him for, as he is wont to say, “Without geography, you’re nowhere.”

We both, however, agree on our love of maps.  My truck is full of maps (I even have maps of places where I have no intention of going).  I’m fairly certain that no one ever got lost because he carried too many maps.  (Except Second Lieutenants--but they are an exception unto themselves.)

My wife, The Doc, however, seems to believe that maps are just a questionable opinion from an unreliable source.   Useful in a sort of an amusing way, but no more reliable than a husband she once saw check a baby’s diaper using the “finger dipstick method”.  Of course, she is wrong about maps.  (And I only did that dipstick thing once!)
In my opinion, most women don’t really understand maps.  While there are probably endless numbers of men who don’t understand maps, either, deep down, I still sort of believe that map reading may be a Y-chromosome-linked ability.  (Sort of like the exclusive male ability to tighten something without the need to mentally recite: “Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey").  And while I have no scientific data, I believe that most women believe that Left and West are synonyms.
It is not that my wife can’t read a map, it’s just the way she gives me the information found there.  As I’m approaching a freeway interchange in Dallas known as the “Mixmaster” is not when I want to hear the words, “I don’t think this map is right...”

This is why I have long lusted for one of those GPS devices you could install in your car that would provide instant and reliable navigation.  Every time I mentioned one, my wife would take this as a personal affront to her intelligence.  While traveling, I once managed to rent a car with such a device, and my wife immediately labeled it untrustworthy and unreliable.  This was the moment I knew for sure, we would never have such a device in our car.
Then, came the iPhone, Google Maps, and Siri.  Suddenly, nearly everybody had a GPS unit.  “Siri,” I can now say confidently.  “Directions to Joe’s Crab Shack.” 
Almost immediately, Siri responds.  “In 2.1 miles, turn left onto North Wilmot Road.  Your destination is on the left.”

This is infinitely better than The Doc suddenly announcing, “Get ready to turn.”
“What?  Which way?  I’m in the middle lane!” I cry as I frantically check all the mirrors.
“Never mind,” The Doc says irritably.  “You missed it.”

The Doc refuses to use Siri, believing that SIRI is an anagram for Somewhere In Rhode Island.  There are currently 31 satellites 12,500 miles straight up, each circling around the earth twice a day, and another three dozen are scheduled to be launched.   Using this technology, even my iPhone can locate me with an incredible accuracy of roughly plus or minus 25 feet.  Siri can now tell me exactly how fast, when, and where I took the wrong turn and got almost lost.
And you can use these tools even when you are not in a car.  Siri is accurate enough for me to have located, just yesterday, my wife inside a MegaStore.   (I didn't even know that store had a curtain rod section.)

Now, every morning, when I start my car, the screen on my iPhone says that traffic is running normal and that it will take me thirteen minutes to drive to work.  Of course, the traffic is always normal in Southern New Mexico and it only takes 8 minutes to drive to work, but this is still amazingly accurate.  And polite.
This is not, however, accurate enough for The Doc.  She steadfastly remains convinced that Siri and GPS are working together to try and kill us.  She claims that Siri has more than once told her to turn off a bridge, take a shortcut through a vacant field, or routed her onto a freeway for a destination only two blocks ahead.  Naturally, I was not present in the car during any of these experiences.

Siri once did tell me to execute an endless series of U-turns to reach a restaurant only three blocks ahead, but that was in Tucson (and the food was so bad that Siri was probably trying to save my life).  And once, while trying to find a grocery store in Alamogordo, she directed me to a store 90 miles away--but once again, Siri was probably just trying to get me out of Alamogordo before the sun went down and the police rolled up the sidewalks.

There is a feature that perhaps should be added to these devices.  A “Wife Mode” would be instructive to single men (God knows we married men don’t need this feature).  After missing a turn, Siri could refuse to provide directions and loudly announce, “If you’re not going to listen to me, you can just find it yourself.”  Or, perhaps, Siri could, on a random basis, ignore where you want to go and direct you straight to The Pottery Barn or Tuesday Morning.
I’m not sure if The Doc and I will live long enough to own a driverless car, but I’m pretty sure that if we do, she will have to wear a blindfold while traveling in it.


  1. Aw, hell. My wife needs to wear a blindfold now!! The carpet on the passenger side of my truck is worn through from her constant use of the imaginary brake. And please, no snide remarks about my using "truck" and "carpet" in the same sentence.

    And I concur about wifely directions, but don't forget the "you need to exit here" when "here" is 50 feet away and I'm going 65 in the far left lane....

  2. The reason women dislike maps is because if a man has a map, he doesn't think he needs to stop and ask directions. Women are very big on stopping and asking for directions. Men find asking for directions a blot on their manhood and will go to any lengths including driving around in circles for an hour and a half before they'll ask some random person to tell him where to go. He has a wife for that.

    And for that matter why is it that you wife will trust the word of high school dropout with a tool belt over her 54 year old husband whom she has known most of her life and seen more than his share of cracks in the foundation. I know what she'd say. She'd say it's BECAUSE she has known you most of her life. At least with the 18 year-old she's got a better than average chance of getting an intelligent answer instead of the usual claptrap most husbands come up with to hide the fact that we don't know what we are talking about..

    Ah, love is a wonderful thing.