Friday, August 7, 2009

Getting There is Half the Battle

I have absolutely no sense of direction. None. When there is a fork in the road, I'll make the wrong choice every time. I don't get lost so much as end up someplace I never intended to go. I do it all the time. You could say that's the story of my life.

When I worked in Kentucky (before the Internet, Mapquest or GPS), someone at the other end mailed or faxed me directions. These directions always got me where I needed to be. Well, almost always...there was that one time I couldn't even find the town, much less the building. But that's another story.

Enter Mapquest, Google maps and their competitors. I prefer Mapquest. I'm not saying it's better. I've just used it a lot more so I'm familiar with its peculiarities. In some ways these automated electronic directions are better than those I once received via fax and snail mail. But I've lost count of the number of times the directions fell short at getting me where I needed to be.

Now I use a navigation service through my cell phone. I really like it, and have used it more than I thought I would. It has some of the same limitations as Mapquest, and then some. The big advantage is you can change your plans. The navigation system will react and guide you to your destination. If it wants to be helpful.

Yesterday, Statesboro--some 170 miles southeast of Athens--was my destination. Rather than going east to Augusta then South to Statesboro as suggested by Mapquest and my phone, I wanted a more scenic option along a more southeasterly course. There may be a way to communicate this wish to my cell phone. It does a lot of things that I guess I'll find out about when I get stronger reading glasses.

I decided to take one of the many southeasterly routes available to me and trust that my navigation system would read my mind. Recalculating route. A minute or two later: please make a u-turn. Each time I ignore the request: Recalculating route. Is it my imagination or does she really sound more aggravated this time? I tell myself she does. My GPS is getting mad at me.

When frantic requests to make a U-turn and to otherwise double-back are continuously ignored, she finally shuts up. I swap my sunglasses for my reading glasses first chance I get and see a written message asking me if she should give up or recalculate. I figured that meant I won. Recalculate route, baby.

As I merged on to I-20 toward Augusta nearly an hour later, it was painfully obvious that I had been bested by my GPS after all. Accepting that any resistance was futile, I gave up and followed along. An hour later, she dumped me in a pasture just outside of Statesboro several miles from any possible destination.

Fortunately, folks down around Statesboro are friendly. I had no problem getting directions from the locals--all four times I stopped to ask. In the end the problem was a lack of signage on the desired road. Shoot, everybody knows that's Langston Chapel Road...don't need no sign.

Just another reason I remain...

The Crotchety Old Man

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