GPS … on Your Smart Phone!

Dear Daughter

I know you were born before GPS systems were around, but they really do make life great and way safer. This is specially true for a family that has a 95% chance of going the wrong way when they come to a fork in the road. Statistically speaking that should be impossible, but somehow those are our odds.

You think driving and texting is dangerous? Before GPS systems we kept MAPS in our cars. When we were trying go somewhere new we would need to hold the map in one hand and try to drive with the other. We would be constantly glancing at the map written in microscopic font and trying to figure out where we were versus where we were trying to go. Each time we would glance away to look at traffic, the process would start anew. Smarter people made their own GPS systems back then by refusing to leave the house alone. They would bring a Mapman with them (sorry they did not call it the map person, very chauvinistic time) that would read the map and shout the directions at the driver.  The seat next to the driver was not called the “passenger” seat, it was the “navigator’s” seat. This would often create divorces and destroy friendships when the navigator would mistakenly shout out the wrong directions and get the driver lost. This is why you’d find yourself driving alone and holding your own map.

Selecting a navigator was not easy either, it was almost like choosing an astronaut. You had to run physical tests on them first. Was their eyesight capable of reading the small font? How was their night vision? You didn’t to drive with the overhead light on the whole time if it was dark. The last thing you needed was your navigator to get motion sickness from staring at the map while you’re performing fast turns and then they’d barf all over the only map you had that told you how to get to your destination. If you doubted your navigator’s ability to keep lunch down, then  it was best to Saranwrap the map – laminating was too expensive back than. Also important was selecting a Navigator that could go without visiting a restroom for at least as long as you. Having a Navigator added cost to your trip because you often had to feed the navigator once you reach your destination since you still needed them for the trip back. It was considered bad etiquette to strand your Navigator. Your insult would spread in the Navigator circles and no one would ever be your navigator again. Experienced drivers knew not to allow the Navigator to order a meal for themselves. Navigators were notorious for not only ordering expensive items, but also things that they often could not hold down on the way back home. A banana and oatmeal was the standard Navigator’s lunch. Easy on the stomach and the car’s carpet and seat fabric.

Then came websites like MapQuest where you could print a map with instructions showing you the best path to your destination, but you were still trying to drive and read at the same time. Still dangerous, still best to bring a navigator; an incremental step.

Soon after though GPS system started to become available at reasonable prices. First there were separate little boxes that you bought and placed on your dashboard. Of course several years later the GPS function was added to smart phones which made life a little simpler. However, it still messes me up when I’m trying to use my GPS function on my iPhone and I get a call just before I’m supposed to turn off somewhere, but my screen turns to the calling function and I miss my turnoff. I especially get upset when it was a worthless phone call on top of it all!

Of course, there are always some downsides to technology, chief amongst them is the voice of “Randy” on Waze. I agree that he’s out to get you and that he sounds a little more patronizing on your iPhone when compared to hearing him anyone else’s phone. Also, the tragic millions of now unemployed Navigators, whom have mostly transitioned to backseat driver’s, but this does not pay as well nor does it even guarantee a meal.

Finally, a little historic point. GPS systems are actually responsible for smaller families. In the old days we had more children because we just assumed some would drive off is dad’s old car and get permanently lost, never able to find their way back home again. This was not always a bad thing.




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