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There’s nothing quite like ending a one week vacation by spending your last evening trapped in a car with a talking GPS (Glorious Patronizing System) bent on getting you on a highway that you are trying to avoid because it’s a parking lot. Yes, I watched the sunset over the dashboard on what should have been a simple 2.5 hour journey as I travelled cross-country on a secondary highway, while Hubby’s GPS (“Gloria”) prodded me to turn right, directed me on how to make a legal U-turn, or resigned itself into suggesting I “turn around as soon as it is safe to do so”.

I confess, she succeeded in distracting me, and I ended up driving north to the highway, to the centre of where traffic had been marked in red on the traffic website only an hour before. It seemed to be moving as I breezed over the overpass and rounded the corner to merge into traffic. I barely made it off the on-ramp before we ground to a standstill, where I crawled for the next 20 minutes to the nearest exit. I gassed up the car at the only gas station in town, along with a line-up of surly fathers, exasperated mothers, and wailing children. I trudged past a scary biker dude to pay, and I’m pretty sure I scared him.

My next stop was Tim Horton’s, because by then my stomach was empty and my bladder was full. Apparently my cell phone battery was empty too. I managed to beat it into submission power it long enough to let Hubby know I was going to be later than expected.

I asked Gloria to provide me with an alternate route, since it was still stubbornly convinced the highway was the fastest route. Her alternative route took me significantly further north than my destination (well over an hour to be exact). I didn’t refrain from telling it just what I thought of that idea, incorporating hand gestures and pelting the steering wheel with my fists until I realized I was frightening the biker gang hanging out on the curb.

I proceeded with my journey, noting the lengthening arrival time with dismay.

Every time Gloria steered me toward the highway, I growled “no”. I realize Gloria is simply a navigating tool, unable to detect the movement of traffic and incapable of feeling, but I swear she was giving me attitude.

Eventually, I succombed, the sky barely a rosy whisper on the horizon.  I made up some time before I hit the edge of the city lights, where everything ground to a halt again. I went north; Gloria argued that I should go south.

Then I hit the toll highway (the extension that isn’t charging yet) and went west. I totally freaked her out. It was awesome. She kept trying to recalculate but couldn’t figure out where I was. She started to stutter. She instructed me “in 8 metres, turn left”. I was on a 3 lane divided highway; had I blindly obeyed, I would have ended up on a grassy knoll, or worse, crossing into 3 lanes of eastbound traffic. Which might have ended worse than this Canadian GPS Fail Story that made international news in May!

When I got off the toll highway, she started snarking that I should turn left and return to the highway…the highway that was now over 30 minutes away.

I turned her off.

It was eerily silent as I drove along the dark back country roads. I kept waiting for her to turn herself on again, so I unplugged her.

“I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over. ..I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.”- HAL, 2001: A Space Odyssey

My total journey took just over 4 hours.

At midnight, Little Guy’s alarm started going off every 5 minutes, and his clock is turned off. I’m not convinced it was a coincidence…

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