The zoo, the museum, the gardens. Last summer she guided me on adventure after adventure to places I had never been before. I’d become reliant on my phone’s navigation to find the best way to get me where I was going. I suppose it was only a matter of time before she let me down.
Today she led me astray. Or did she? Maybe she was trying to teach me a lesson instead.
When I started venturing out on my own to places I had always wanted to go, but never been, one thing was clear. I needed a navigator. Someone to read the maps and tell me where to turn. Thankfully, I found just such a co-pilot in the voice navigation app on my mobile phone. She sits on the seat next to me, Bluetoothing her directions through my car speakers.
Shortly into my first trip I realized I needed to give that voice a name. We were having way too many conversations for me to keep calling her “hey, you”. I settled on the name “Elaine”, after the character on Seinfeld. Having a name made our conversations much more natural.
Elaine: In 500 feet, turn left onto X Street.
Me: No. I’m turning right, Elaine. X Street is closed to the left.
Elaine: Turn left onto X Street.
Me: Nooo. X Street is blocked off. I’m taking Y Avenue.
Elaine: Continue on Y Avenue for 300 feet and then make a u-turn. Then turn onto X Street.
Me: I’m not going through the barricades, Elaine. X Street is OFF THE TABLE!
Me: Elaine? ELAINE!?! ELAAAAINE!!??!! I’m still driving here. Where are we going? Speak. UP! Look, we’re on Avenue Y, deal with it. Just recalculate and figure it out!
Elaine: In 500 feet, turn left onto Z Street.
Me: Ah. Thank you, Elaine. Why didn’t I think of that?
Over the last year, Elaine has navigated me safely to location after location that I never would have found on my own. Therefore, naturally, when my gut instinct for which side of the fork in the road to choose differs from Elaine’s advice, I assume I’M the idiot. Because, let’s be honest, I usually am. After all, Elaine has all the maps, right?
So, today when I had to make a split second decision, who do you think I trusted?
I had run some errands between games of a youth baseball tournament where I was watching a friend’s son play. While driving back across town to the field nestled in a neighborhood I couldn’t have found on my own earlier that morning even with a baseball diamond divining rod, I was relying on Elaine for the half hour drive. I had a basic idea in my mind of how to get back. I had just left the field a couple of hours before. I assumed I would be taking I-680 South. I could not have been more surprised when, as I approached the fork, Elaine said, “Veer left and take the I-680 North ramp.”
What? North? Why wouldn’t I go South? All the signage for South looks familiar to me. That’s the way I normally go. Does Elaine know something I don’t?
Everything in my head and gut was telling me to take the South ramp, but Elaine was echoing through the car, “Take the I-680 North ramp.” After 10 solid seconds of panic and soul searching about whether to trust Elaine’s instincts or my own…I blindly followed Elaine.
Not more than 15 seconds after I followed Elaine’s directions, I had that sinking feeling that she and I might not be on the same page as far as time frame for getting to my destination.
Elaine: Continue on I-680 North for 13 miles.
13 miles?? Thaaaat doesn’t seem right. Does Elaine know the game starts in 10 minutes? I don’t have time to take the scenic route!
And did I mention it was windy? Like 50mph gusts, windy? Not the type of weather that makes for a fun drive across open land.
This is what it sounded like in my car for the next twenty minutes as I talked to myself out loud.
“I knew I should have gone South…Where am I? Nothing looks familiar…680 is a loop, right? So, I can’t end up in the middle of the state…Lake? Wildlife Refuge? Recreation Area? How long have I been driving??…Nice work, Elaine. I’ve missed at least two innings of the ballgame, by now…WHY IS IT SO WINDY?? I can barely keep my car in my lane…What is this I’m driving on? This isn’t even concrete! It’s some sort of weird, slippery concrete/pebble hybrid…Am I on a HIGHWAY? Am I still on the Interstate?? There are no landmarks! Where AM I?…Wait. Is THAT the bridge? Am I crossing the river on THAT??…Okay. You’re fine. You’re fine. Eyes straight ahead. Don’t look down…Are my hands going numb? I think I’m gripping the wheel too tightly…HEY, GREEN CAR! DON’T PASS ME ON THIS RICKETY LITTLE BRIDGE!! WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!?”
I made it over the bridge in one piece and then the unthinkable happened.
Apparently fed up with my berating, Elaine went silent. One minute she was telling me which exit to take and then…nothing. Something had shut off the navigation on my phone. I assume Elaine mumbled something along the lines of, “You think YOU can do better? YOU get YOURSELF to the ball field from here!”
With the state I had already worked myself into, you can imagine my panic at first. But Elaine’s cold shoulder forced me to rely on myself and that required me to calm down and put things in perspective. I was pretty sure she had told me to get off on the next exit, so I decided to just sit back and try to relax. Complaining and being frustrated wasn’t going to get me to the ball field any faster. I might as well enjoy the scenery. It was a beautiful drive.
Three innings late, I eventually did find the ball field again on my own. Elaine had taken me around the back way and dumped me off right where I needed to go. I just didn’t realize it in all my frustration with the fact that she hadn’t taken me the direction I had EXPECTED to go.
So, ultimately, do I think Elaine was trying to teach me a lesson? No. I think Elaine’s computer brain just thought, “Hey, here’s a line between two points!!”.
I think I taught myself a lesson.
Life, or your GPS, make take you out of your way sometimes. That might be inconvenient, but you’ll eventually get to where you need to go. And if where you’re going is someplace that’s supposed to be fun, like a baseball game? Don’t ruin the destination with a stressful journey. Just sit back and enjoy the scenery!
Note: All pictures courtesy of Google Maps…I was NOT taking pictures while I was driving.