Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Dara vs. GPS

Today's Washington Post had a long feature on navigation devices. This is now a subject on which I am quite familiar.

It all started when Inbal took her brand new GPS device on the California trip. Before then, despite all my traveling, I had pretty much managed to avoid GPS. In fact, I can only remember having GPS in a rental car once: It was back when it was first starting out, and as it turned out, I didn't really need it -- it was in South Florida, where I kind of know where I'm going.

At first, my inner Luddite was a little turned-off by the GPS. I like having written directions and maps -- which is probably why I was an early adopter of Mapquest and then Google Maps. And the GPS said all the words funny, which, on occasion, made the directions difficult to understand. (It also made me snicker and mimic.)

And to be frank, the voice got annoying after a while. A surprisingly short while.

More importantly, the GPS doesn't really help with the confusion of figuring out which street to turn on when there are a whole bunch -- I mean, it's hard to judge exactly how far is 350 feet, and sometimes, you can't see the street sign until you're already in the turn lane. But in those cases, a map wouldn't really help either.

So, despite my initial reluctance, I embraced the gadget, and ultimately found it to be useful for navigating around new, unfamiliar places. Plus, I loved how it could pinpoint what time we were going to arrive at our destination. That way, when someone calls, you can tell them "I will be there at 8:43." If you try, you can make it seem like you're predicting the future.

When we got back from California, Inbal let me buy her old GPS from her. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of her new one -- for example, it has a smaller screen and it doesn't say the name of the streets (you have to look at the screen to figure that out). Still, I find it really useful whenever I'm not exactly sure where I'm going -- which is more often than I'd like to admit, as I like to think I have an excellent sense of direction.

On the flip side, I hate how I'm starting to let it think for me. I might have needed it to find Wegmans when I was at the closing down in Fairfax, but I certainly do not need it find my way from my apartment to the new condo. But I feel compelled to see what route it recommends.

Increasingly, I find myself talking to it. "Duh. It's a one-way street." "Alright, alright. I'll get over to the left as soon as I can." "How come you're telling me to stay on the highway when the sign for the airport says to take this ramp?"

I am, however, somewhat fearful that one of these days, she's going to say, "Just what do you think you're doing, Dave Dara?"

Yesterday, I was dropping my aunt off at her friend's house downtown, and I decided to ignore the directions, and go the way my aunt suggested. The GPS originally said that we would reach our destination at 2:23. Each time I ignored it, it would recalculate the route, adding another minute or two onto the ETA -- like she was punishing me. My aunt's directions -- the way that her friend recommended we go -- ultimately wound up costing me 15 minutes. At the law firm, that would have been around $100 of time.

You win this one TomTom. But I am confident that I will, one day, emerge victorious.


restaurantrefugee said...

Despite a prior career in technology, I am surprisingly not an early adopter of technological advances in my personal life - more like I need to be forced into it things by a team of wild virtual horses. Usually, I find it takes me all of .345 minutes to slap my forehead and ask "why did I wait so long to get this thingamabob?"

But I still don't have a GPS – probably because I don’t have a car, but even if I did, those horses are no match for me.

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Hello, Stumbled upon your blog,and have observed that aren't all of our blogs just that...blah blah! Interesting concept. But about a GPS. I don't have one but my brother's car does. It reminds me of HAL in 2001: A Spacy Odyssey.
I don't know. Something, about an inanimate object communicating with me gives me the willies. But who knows? There will be dating sites for humans and robots before you know it! It was nice meeting you, blah blah! :)) Petra