Misdirected ramblings and bad information

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By Christopher Brooke


In just the last few weeks, I’ve decided the only real advantage that GPS on a mobile device can accurately claim over a map is you don’t have to fold electronics after getting finished with them.

With the proliferation of gadgets and software to provide assistance to the locationally challenged, there just isn’t as much initiative for people to prepare their routes through our interlacing system of local roads and interstate highways.

As a late adopter of both cell phones and smart phones, I naturally also resisted depending on the somehow sultry and yet clipped and staccato tones of my phone’s digitalized personal assistant. 

But having now put down roots in a new home has eroded my success rate in getting from point A to point B without help. And, so, I turn to a device that drops pins on a glowing map labeled “A” and “B” and ideally talks you through the twists and turns.

“How could I go wrong?” I said in wide-eyed naiveté. How I could go wrong involves the untrustworthy silicone and glass prop mistaking, for example, the Pendleton community for Pendleton County. 

Fortunately, I knew enough about Kentucky to be able to spot a minor inconsistency there and avoid a few extra miles of wear and tear on my vehicle.

Similarly, my wife might have ended up at the wrong homeless shelter for a service project, except that she’s thorough enough to double check certain facts, like does the confounded GPS have the correct address of the destination filed in its memory banks.

A computer never shows doubt about whether its information needs updating or not. What’s inputed into its memory chips must be true — until the next version of the software comes out.

And those examples pale in comparison to the tribulations that my in-laws suffered when using their misguiding machines.

My sister-in-law coming from central North Carolina searched a rental car’s satellite assisted navigation system under the “fewest miles” feature to get to our home.

Fewest miles does not equal fastest time in this case, since the resulting direction steered her through the proverbial crooked roads in the mountains of western Virginia and eastern Kentucky. 

My mother-in-law used her phone last weekend to try to avoid an interstate tunnel cut through one of the Blue Ridge Mountains, not far from where I used to live in Virginia. 

As a burning tractor-trailer choked the tunnel with heat and flames, it was very much imperative for my family to find a way around.

A strange detour plus the paucity of roads in the mountains conspired to send the unsuspecting innocents 30 miles southwest and then redirected them in a northeast leg of 31.7 miles over the course of three hours to bypass a section of highway that’s only 10 miles. Nice.

The revelation communicated by phone to my wife that GPS sent them generally south to get much farther to the north left her with a serious case of consternation. 

“North! You’ve got to turn around and go north!” she repeatedly advised the travelers. Yelling might do it justice.

A stockpile of frustrated and tired drivers started wrecking here, there and everywhere in my in-laws’ path, so their already uncomfortable trip of nine hours got turned into a mobile sleepover.

Both sets of in-laws were fantastic sports about the whole thing, turning their misadventures into funny anecdotes and laughing it off as much as possible.

I haven’t seen as much misdirection since watching a magic act.