Friday, July 10, 2009


Back in my Snot-Nose Days, I looked forward to our annual road trip to Florida. It was a long-ass time in the car, but it had its compensations. One of those was the opportunity to have my annual bottle of Dr Pepper, a mysterious and exotic soft drink that, at the time, was not available in New York. Another was using the AAA Triptik booklet to keep track of our slow and steady progress as we wended our way up and down the eastern seaboard.

Every page in the Triptik booklet represented a measurable chunk of travel progress: somewhere between 90 and 160 miles. Every page turned meant we were that much closer to our destination. And every page was filled with landmarks, names of nondescript towns that became familiar over the years. Santee. Walterboro. Dillon.

The Triptik is still around, but I have a feeling its days are numbered. For that, you can thank (or curse) Modern Technology.

Finding your way from Point A to Point B is a lot easier these days, thanks to a whole host of Electronic Navigational Devices. For computers, you have Google Maps, Google Earth, Mapquest. And on the road, you’ve got Magellan, Tom Tom, Garmin. Higher-end automobiles - and smart phones (like my iPhone) - incorporate Global Positioning System (GPS) capability as well.

These days, when someone tells you to get lost, you can ask him, “Now how the fuck am I gonna manage to do that?”

I never gave much thought to ever owning a GPS device, but when the notoriously technology-averse Eli (hizzownself) got one - and actually used it! - we could see the handwriting on the wall. Even he saw that there was value in having a doo-dad that would bark navigational orders at you as you drove places. Eventually, we bought one for the Mistress of Sarcasm, who was always somewhat cartographically challenged... and it proved to be a godsend.

And thus it was that She Who Must Be Obeyed drank deep of the GPS Kool-Aid. She bought us a Garmin about a month ago: a soi-disé anniversary present.

The Mistress had dubbed her Garmin “Carmen the Garmin.” We accordingly named ours “Charmaine the Garmaine.”

Except for a few places where her routing instructions make No Fucking Sense Whatsoever, Charmaine is fairly useful. Amusing, too - because the geniuses that programmed her Voice Module have a few kinks still to work out.

Abbreviations, f’r instance. You and I know that “Dr.” can stand for both “Doctor” and “Drive” - and that “St.” can stand for both “Saint” and “Street.” You'd think that the text-to-voice algorithms for a GPS device would be set up for, say, street names, eh? When I hear “In 0.2 miles, turn right on Riverside Doctor,” or “Turn left on N Saint,” it kinda sorta undermines Charmaine’s credibility a tad.

But this is merely a quibble. It’s amazing technology, this GPS business... and maybe a bit scary to know that there are chunks of metal orbiting the Earth that know where you’ve been. Gaaah!

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