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A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The GPS Guy

A while back I went to Mesa, Arizona with my friend K. We'd been up there scores of times but she was trying out her new GPS. With a flourish, K. entered our coordinates as if we were headed off for the dark side of Saturn. We set off to the dulcet tones of a strapping young man with a washboard stomach, sparkling blue eyes, and golden highlights. (You can hear how he looks. I know you can.)

That worked right up until we got to the end of the street and K. decided we needed something from the store. She likes to travel prepared (which has saved us a ton of money going to the movies). The young man in the GPS graciously let us know that we'd veered from our chosen course.

"I know," remarked K. "I'm getting something."
"Redirecting," the young man said silkily.
We headed off to the store to pick up our goodies and get some gas. Upon leaving said store, again our sweet Adonis nudged us toward some nameless neighborhood to turn around.
"I know what I'm doing in town, you doofus!" K. yelled. We turned the opposite way and headed for the freeway. I could hear a slight choking sound from the GPS. The blond lad was starting to get pink in the face.

K. smiled and patted the GPS. "I programmed in the most cost effective way to get there. This should be good."
I grinned, knowing that we'd be trundling down the freeway in no time.

Not so much. Our efforts to make it to the freeway were giving our boy-in-the-Box apoplexy. I could hear the decibels climb with each disobedience. The boy was turning scarlet by now and there was a vein popping in his once-lineless forehead. I was expecting invective by now.

"Turn right at Vale-en-sie-a," the boy moaned.
"Get it right, then," K. cracked. "These things never pronounce things right."
"I'd hate to see what he makes of Casa Grande," I said, remembering any number of human pronunciations. "Or Tohono O'odam. Get that right, GPS Guy."

I was now worried that our fearless captain would have an aneurysm if we didn't start to follow his august instructions. "Maybe you should let the dude lead," I told K. "If not, he'll pop a vein or something. You did want to try it out, didn't you?"

So she took his advice, which led to the oddest route to Mesa we'd ever taken. I'd never been through the back side of the reservation before. We saw all kinds of tiny towns we'd never even heard of. At every juncture we lost a little more confidence that 'Golden Boy' knew anything he was talking about. How could a route which looked like a cat had been having way too much fun with a ball of string be the most cost effective way to get there?

And then it dawned on me. Boy-in-a-Box was getting back at us for ignoring his veiled threats. (Okay, they were very well veiled.) He had gotten fed up with trying to nicely nudge us the sane way, and now he was taking us through Chicken Leg Hollow and Dogpatch to where his fifty nine in-bred cousins would do us in and chop the car into salable pieces. (Except that he'd obviously never bodily ridden in said car or he'd be insane because the warning bell for something was forever stuck in the ON position and dinged through the whole ride.)

Just when I was certain I could see an angry mob of bat-wielding relatives converging on us at a stop sign, I realized that I could see the freeway.
"What's he thinking?" I asked K. "The stinking freeway is right there!"
"Huh. So it is. What's the deal? Maybe he'll direct us up there and we can drive faster than thirty five again."
We skulked along in Podunkia and a few hundred fields of waving whatever eying the sleek lines of the freeway, wondering how to ditch the bossy boy and get back to the real route.

"Maybe there's a traffic snarl. Traffic near Phoenix is always getting backed up."
I nodded. "Look. It isn't moving. Maybe he's right."
Sure enough, GPS Guy never connected us to the freeway. We crawled along in the weedy byways, but we did crawl. And the event we were planning to attend wasn't even over by the time we got there. We went home under our own steam.

The jury's still out on Mr. GPS Man. It's doubtful he'll want to direct us anywhere in the future. We may have caused him to opt for an early retirement in Bolivia somewhere. And we think we can get to Mesa by ourselves next time.


  1. This is hilarious! You have such a natural voice in your writings. I saw a programmable gps, but besides Darth Vader and Yoda as direction options I wasn't tempted. (but I am tempted thinking of giving the boy in a box an aneurysm! thank you!