The history of Global Positioning Systems and satellites is strangely fascinating to me, notwithstanding the adaptation of this technology to automotive nav systems. “With the passion of a thousand suns”* would accurately describe my general distaste for the Garmins, TomToms, Magellans, and K-Mart knock-offs of the western world.
Okay, so maybe that’s a teensy bit of an overstatement. Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that I hate how one tiny little touch screen seems to transform so many otherwise intelligent, resourceful, humans into incompetent, confused morons.
That, my friends, is not an overstatement. Exhibit A (excuse the poor video quality):
A conversation in the car with my father, held while visiting my brother late last week:
Dad takes out the GPS (which Juanita has named George, because, well, I don’t know) and plugs it in. He chooses the address to which we’re traveling (which turns out to be a gas station approximately 150 yards from our Starting Location) and hits “Go.”
George: Please drive to highlighted route.
Dad: Where’s that? What?
Me: It just wants you to leave the parking lot.
Dad: And go where?
Me: Just head back out to the highway.
Dad: But where do I go?
Me: Just leave the parking lot.
Dad: And turn where?
Me: Okay, well, when you get to the road, you can only – you know – go one way.
Dad: What do you mean?
Me: I MEAN IT’S A ONE WAY STREET.
Dad: Why is it telling me to go the other way?
Me: (in my head: OH MY GOD, DAD, I CAN SEE THE GAS STATION FROM WHERE WE ARE PARKED RIGHT NOW. JUST DRIVE TO IT! DRIVE TO IT! DRIVE TO IT!) aloud: Well, it looks like the Sinclair is across the street, so however you need to get to it, just – you know – do that.
Dad: Oh, is that where we’re going?
I’m all for technology – to a point. It’s done some pretty kick-ass things. But I worry that, if it can transform my normally-capable father into a confused mush-brain, what does this mean for the future? I mean, are they even teaching kids how to read a map in school?**
C’est la vie, say the old folks. It goes to show you never can tell.
*Or however that phrase goes. And where did that originate, anyway?
**What are they teaching them in school, anyway? Don’t get me started. I don’t like sounding like an old lady before noon.