August 11, 2010

Driving Miss Waypoint

Not too long ago, Mrs. Robbo bought herself a GPS thingum for the Orgle Manor Cherokee.

Now anyone who has spent any time hanging around Llama Central will remember that Robbo has - how shall we put it? - a somewhat reactionary view towards new technology, especially technology devoted to communications and surveillance. Although I would be correctly tarred and feathered as a Tory if I ever showed up at a John Birch Society meeting, I nonetheless have a certain libertarian distaste for the idea that my technology (or more exactly, somebody operating my technology) is keeping tabs on my whereabouts. If the GPS knows, for example, that the local speed limit is 65 and that I am, in fact, doing about 80 and just passed Exit 5, how long is it going to be before that info is slipped into the mitts of the New Jersey Highway Patrol? (As an aside, I fully expect to receive a ticket in the mail based on the mathematical impossibility of my having made it from the top to the bottom of the Turnpike, duly recorded by my E-Z Pass, without breaking the limit. Fortunately, the account is in Mrs. Robbo's name.)

Apart from that, of course I also fear that human over-reliance on technology will simply make things easier for SkyNet when it decides to attack.

Anyhoo, despite my misgivings, I decided to give the ol' GPS a workout on our trip to Maine. (Nice to be back, by the way.) And for the most part, I rather enjoyed the experience. For one thing, I like maps. For another, all that data at eye level helped break up the monotony of the long drive. For a third, well, let's just say that there is something a bit, ah, naughty about that cool, authoritarian female voice telling me when and where to turn. In fact, I even went to far as to name her "Miss Waypoint" and to murmur "Yes, ma'am" when she gave me instructions.

Indeed, I was just beginning to let my guard down when I was suddenly reminded again of the perils of this sort of thing.

As is our custom, we took two days to drive down from Maine, stopping off in Codport, CT overnight to visit the in-laws. From the Mass Pike, we usually take I-84 to Hartford, there picking up I-91 down to New Haven and then slogging on down the coast on I-95.

This was plainly the course Miss Waypoint had in mind as well. However, as we rolled out of Hartford, I decided, as I sometimes do, to jump on the Cross/Merritt Parkway instead, cutting the corner and avoiding the truck traffic. Thus, as we passed Meriden, I took the appropriate exit.

Miss Waypoint had not said anything since we'd got on I-91, other than to instruct me to stay on it for another 28 miles or so. When I took the parkway exit, however, she suddenly snapped into life.

"Recalculating....," she said, a gentle note of remonstrance in her voice.

"Re-cal-culating...," she said again, a distinct displeasure creeping into her tone. (We had had some fun doing this to her a couple of days before when we took a detour on the way to my sister's house to stop at a store, thereby starting a torrent of revised directions. I had been hoping that sooner or later we could provoke her into blurting out, "Very well! You asked me how to get there, I told you, and you won't listen. Find the goddam place yourself!")

We got no such outburst this time. After a few seconds, Miss Waypoint realized what I was up to and revised her own course to conform with mine.

Or so I thought.

We hadn't been on the parkway more than 20 minutes or so when Miss Waypoint came to life again. "Severe traffic ahead," she said. "Recommend detour at Exit 61." The exit was coming up fast and I had only a few seconds to react. Curious to see what would happen, and assuming that she was only going to get us off the parkway for a short while to get around whatever the blockage was, I took her recommendation.

Well. All I can say is more fool me. After a short time noodling around on secondary roads, I suddenly realized where I was: The outskirts of New Haven.

Yes, the hussy was routing us back to the course she had wanted us to take in the first place.

"But, Tom," you are no doubt saying, "Why didn't you just turn back to the Merritt?" Well, I don't know the back roads of that part of Connecticut well enough for that kind of trailblazing, at least not with a half tank of gas and a bunch of increasingly restless Llama-ettes.

It was thus with a sinking heart that I found myself on Trumbull Street in New Haven, duly turning on to the ramp that would put me back on I-91 just before it merged on to I-95. But that sinking feeling quickly turned to fury as I found myself in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam caused by an accident up ahead.

Now here's the kicker: The accident scene and the congestion it caused clearly showed up on Miss Waypoint's monitor. Thus, she plainly knew about it. And by the time we crawled past, the tow-trucks were just hauling off the last of the wrecks, which meant that the accident had happened some considerable time before we got there, which meant......that she had known about it before she pulled us off the parkway!

In other words, Miss Waypoint was still sulking over my decision to ignore her original instructions and had decided to add insult to injury by decoying me off my route back to hers by a claim of congestion even though she knew her choice was worse than mine.


It was at that point that I did what I should have done earlier and yanked her cord out of the charger.

Will I ever listen to her again? Well, I don't know. After this experience, I'm almost afraid to, knowing what lengths she'll go to to discipline errant behavior on my part.

On the other hand, there's that voice......

Posted by Robert at August 11, 2010 08:49 AM | TrackBack

Welcome back.

My GPS offers selections of male/female voices and languages. "Sheila" is my Australian navigator of choice. What more can I say...

Posted by: NOVA Curmudgeon at August 11, 2010 09:28 AM

Admit it, the real reason you are a bit of a luddite is your tendency to anthropomorphize these technological devices. You've had an entire relationship cycle - falling in love, teasing one another, then the nasty games and ensuing break up - with a software program.

Who knows what would happen if something like an iphone fell into your hands.

Posted by: Diane at August 11, 2010 11:07 AM

My Nuvi is named "Peaches." Peaches can be quite insistent when she wants but when she becomes too annoying, I command: "Silence!" and tap the mute button.

Posted by: LMC at August 11, 2010 08:58 PM

I've nicknamed my GPS voice "English Emily"...

Posted by: kmr at August 12, 2010 06:21 AM

The entire idea of relying upon GPS in CT astonishes me. I always take the Merritt when I can.

Posted by: Fear and Loathing In Georgetown at August 12, 2010 12:33 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?