I am nothing if not directionally challenged. Back in the day, I used MapQuest to get me to my destination… remember MapQuest? You’d put in your starting point and your destination, and out popped directions that you could print and take with you on the road. For me, MapQuest was a godsend as I never could re-fold those origami maps to fit back into the glovebox. My backseat would look as though a cartographer had thrown-up after a 4-day bender. And reading a sheet of directions just seems easier – not to mention safer – than spreading a 6-foot map out across the windshield as you’re going 65 mph down an unfamiliar stretch of highway.
Then came the GPS tech that attached to your dashboard… or in most cases, sat on the passenger seat next to you because you were too lazy to figure out the dashboard attachment feature. Better than MapQuest, if not more obnoxious. You see, this tech would talk to you. Often in a woman’s voice … which always invoked the feeling that either your wife or your mother was right there in the car with you and not always happy with your performance. Knowing a trend when they see one, car manufacturers started adding this nifty navigation device to their arsenal of new car features. The idea of having an onboard navigation officer – sans the red shirt – was so popular, it became a standard bell on the list of bells and whistles for vehicles coming off the factory floor.
Right about this time, news started drifting in about drivers ending up in lakes or the middle of cornfields … the GPS to blame. Oh sure, we can laugh and say the driver should’ve paid more attention, or at least, not listened to a disembodied voice when it directed them to take that right turn into the ocean. But did we ever think that perhaps that disembodied voice was just having a laugh at our expense? That in fact, it knew the Pacific Ocean was a right-turn away and just thought, “what the hell, let’s see if this idiot is stupid enough to listen to me…”
Not to be outdone, smarter-than-me geeks software engineers everywhere worked themselves silly coming up with the best navigational apps for our phones. On today’s highways, there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for getting lost, because your phone can lead the way. Oh sure, people still end up in lakes, but for those folks… well, let’s just say that no app in the world can help them.
As for me, I use Waze. I know I’ve mentioned it before. I love it. It not only tells me how to get somewhere, but also when I’ll be there and exactly how much traffic will annoy me on the way. It even warns you of potholes and roadkill along your route. I’m not sure why, but this app, like so many, still has a woman’s voice. Maybe people feel calmed by a woman’s voice, rather than a man’s voice. Calm is definitely a feeling you want to nurture while hurtling down the road – or while stuck in traffic – so it makes sense. I mean, listening to Lewis Black’s curmudgeonly demeanor call the shots on my morning commute, while amusing, likely wouldn’t end well.
I’ve come to depend on Waze and find myself using it even when I know exactly where I’m going. She helps me avoid traffic on these routine trips by sending me down backroads I never knew existed. I’ll probably be one of those people in a lake one of these days, having listened too intently to the soothing, yet authoritative, Voice of Waze. Reminds me of the Face of Boe … but that’s another story for another time.
What I do find though, is my self-esteem taking a hit. Not unlike having my ex-MIL in the car. Oh, not from anything the Voice of Waze is outwardly saying or doing, it’s more the silent disapproval and quiet judgement. You see, when leaving my neighborhood, Waze always, but always, wants to send me down this one road that ends in an intersection with nothing more than a stop sign to direct traffic. Well, we all know how that goes, don’t we? Yeah, people suck. And nowhere do they suck more than on a busy road during the morning commute to work. I guess on paper, it looks like the faster route, but in reality, it’s not… because you have to wait forever to cross the busy main thoroughfare without the benefit of a traffic signal. So, instead, I drive past that road and go on to the next one, where there is a traffic signal because I don’t really like spending my morning waiting at a stop sign for so long that I forget where I’m going in the first place.
Before I got Waze, my GPS program would say “recalculating” whenever I missed a turn. Sometimes, it would say recalculating a lot and I would swear its tone got a little more frustrated every time. But I digress. With Waze, she doesn’t say “recalculating.” In fact, she doesn’t say anything at all. She just pauses for a minute, trying to recalibrate herself, and then gives new instructions.
Well. I’ve noticed a change over the last few times I’ve driven past this road I mentioned … the pauses have grown longer and seemingly more, well, exasperated, if that makes sense. I can almost hear an audible sigh. It’s as if she’s got her head in her hands, saying to herself: “Your turn. You just missed your turn. Again. Did you not hear me tell you to turn? What the hell, Wendy? Why do you even have me on if you’re not going to listen to me? God. Damn. It. Fine.” And then she pulls herself together just in time to tell me the next turn even though she probably doesn’t want to.
Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s possible I could use a carpool buddy. You know. For some human company. Just don’t tell Waze. She’s kinda touchy.