I recently got a raise and a bonus at work. My wife convinced me that I should spend part of it to buy something I wanted for myself that is completely unnecessary. I bought a Garmin nuvi 260. I think of this as completely unnecessary because, back where I come from, there were people who you could go to to ask directions to anywhere and find out local places of interest and the best restaurants. These people were called Gas Station Attendants. GSA’s were the GPS systems of pre-history (1950’s – early 70’s, which is back where I come from).
I wanted the GPS because, even though I am a man, I am directionally challenged. I blame this on the fact that I have lived in the female dominated world of my mother, sister, grandmother, niece, wife and daughter for the past 50 years. My internal compass is thrown off by secondhand female hormones. Also in my defense, I grew up in a city (LA) that has streets laid out in logical grids. Cincinnati wrapped their streets around 7 hills and then made half of them one way in order to trap people and grow the population. It’s easy to get lost and confused, so the Garmin helps. But the real usefulness of the GPS will come when I visit other cities or when I lend it to my daughter so she doesn’t get lost visiting her friends going to college in who-knows-where. My daughter finds her way home by looking for "the house with the big bush in front of it", so I know she can use a GPS.
I chose the nuvi 260 for portability and text-to-speech features (I didn’t want the more expensive features on higher-priced models).
I tested my new GPS on the way to work and back yesterday. In the morning, I made it easy and followed the simple path down the interstate to the office. On the way back I gave nuvi her real test. I say “her” because the Garmin’s voice is female, speaking in unaccented American English. The way I tested her was to take a detour off the interstate. When you deviate from Ms. Nuvi’s chosen route, she says, “recalculating” and then starts giving you new directions based on where you have foolishly chosen to go. Her primary goal was to get me back to I-71, but I frustrated her further by sticking to a winding path of side roads that is the detour I use when traffic is backed up on I-71. nuvi, abandoning all hope of getting me back on 71, decided we were safest sticking to one main road that is direct but heavily traveled. My insistence on bypassing that crowded street convinced her that I am completely clueless. She had to “recalculate” several times. I swear to you that when she says “recalculating” she totally conveys her exasperation with my fumbling attempts to find my own way. You can actually hear her sigh in the middle (“re-CAAL-culating”). Seriously, find someone who has one of these and listen to it. You can hear her little electronic eyes rolling. I am not making that up.
I checked the “tools” section and found that the default voice I was hearing was not just "American English", but, actually, “American Wife”. After I “missed” a few turns, Ms, nuvi started to get absolutely pissy. “I really think you should have turned there”, she said, in a very passive-aggressive tone. Then she just gave up. “Hey, just go whichever way you want.” Exactly one turn and 0.6 miles later, she said, “You never listen to me anymore.” Finally, I guess she just got distracted and forgot she was mad: “Hey, if you turn here there’s a great little antique shop over on Locust Street. It’s practically on the way." I looked over at Ms. nuvi and thought about all the reasons I had considered her a fun companion and an important part of my travelling life. "Re-CAAL-culating," I said.