As a woman of some age, I sometimes feel painfully out of the loop. Now and then I wish I could simply pick up the phone, find Ernestine the operator and ask her to connect my party. Itâ€™s hard for those of us who started with five-digit phone numbers to enter the mobile information era.
This became clear lastÂ April at the Philadelphia airport when husband Jack and I met daughter Erica and her husband Randy who flew in from Walla Walla, Washington. We drove to Cape May, New Jersey, to celebrate their son Keithâ€™s graduation from the Coast Guard Training Center.
After our four days together, Jack and I planned to drive the rental car on to Gaithersburg, Maryland, to visit his brother. Erica decided that we needed a GPS thingy for the trip. â€œIt sits on the dash,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s wonderful. Weâ€™ll buy it and you can use it for Gaithersburg and then mail it to us.â€
Now, Jack is Map Man. When we travel, I usually drive and his eyes are pinned to huge, detailed state atlases so that he can flawlessly guide our progress. I knew he wouldnâ€™t warm to Ericaâ€™s idea but he did a pretty good job of hiding his reluctance. Off we went to Radio Shack where we bought a Garmin GPS device.
We carried our new purchase to the car, plugged it in and waited about five minutes for it to find the satellites. I was amazed. I canâ€™t even find my shoes in five minutes. Then we three generations eagerly listened to the liquid alto tones of the woman inside the machine. â€œProceed left on Delsea Drive for two point seven miles.â€ Okay. We did that. â€œTurn right on Garden State Parkway in 100 yards.â€ Whoosh! We passed the turn almost before she finished her little speech.
She took it well. â€œRecalculating. Go 1.7 miles; turn right on Shawcrest Road, then right on Wildwood Boulevard.â€ She repeated this often, with mindless insistence. Thing is, we knew where we were and we didnâ€™t want to go back to the parkway. I tried to explain this to her, but she was not a good listener. Finally she caved and said, â€œRecalculating.â€
The poor darling spent a lot of time and energy recalculating but we finally reached our temporary home, agreeing that for the most part she had been right, and certainly well-meaning. But she didnâ€™t seem to grasp the big picture. She had, however â€“ because of Coastie Keithâ€™s skill âˆ’ led us to a delightful restaurant for lunch, despite being disturbed that we were wandering so far off course. He had asked for Panini, and by golly she found it!
When we parted on day five, Erica and Randy flew to separate destinations (Randy had a meeting on the east coast). We returned Keith to the base where he was to do intensive training in hopes of gaining a spot for dive training, a highly competitive venture.
With Keith situated, we were ready for Gaithersburg. Jack set Ms Garmin on the dash in her little weighted case. He also had his New Jersey atlas at the ready, open on his lap. Ms G got right to it, â€œTurn right on Lafayette Street. Go 2.7 miles to Garden State Parkway,â€ she said.
â€œWe donâ€™t want the parkway,â€ Jack said. â€œTurn left here.â€ We were on Sandman Road. Jack said, â€œGo right on U.S. 9.â€
â€œRecalculating,â€ said Ms Garmin.
After she seemed to understand what Jack was doing, things went along pretty well for a couple of miles. Then, with some forcefulness she said, â€œGo 1.9 miles and turn right on Delsea Drive.â€
â€œNo, we want to stay on U.S. 9,â€ said Jack.
â€œRecalculating.â€ I swear there was a distinct edge in her voice.
For the next seven exits she tried valiantly to put us onto the parkway. We ignored her pleas to take exits on Edgewood, Indian Trail, Oyster Shell Bay and several more.
The Bible says no one can serve two masters. I felt conditioned to listen to Ms Garmin, but I wanted to maintain friendly relations with my husband. After some 20 miles I realized that this was not working. It was time for me to get religion.
I said to Ms Garmin, â€œNothing personal, honey. We just think that you must be weary of recalculating. Weâ€™re going to give you a little break.â€
I could almost hear a faint â€œNoooo. . .â€ as I unplugged her.