GPS plus self-reliance keeps writer on course

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Pat Grime copy.jpg

Generous soul that he is, my brother gave me his old GPS unit when visiting in June. I have seen others use such a device once or twice in the past, but given my lack of familiarity, I let his gift gather dust for a while.

Finally taking it to my car, the darn thing got me out of being lost the other day. With new confidence, then, I plugged it into the dashboard for a drive across the state.

Generous soul that he is, my brother gave me his old GPS unit when visiting in June. I have seen others use such a device once or twice in the past, but given my lack of familiarity, I let his gift gather dust for a while.

Finally taking it to my car, the darn thing got me out of being lost the other day. With new confidence, then, I plugged it into the dashboard for a drive across the state.

You could not label me an early adopter of new technology. It was less than two years ago I began using a smartphone, but only because it was a gift. I have yet to load any MP3s on it; evidently I believe that, at home or in the car, music should be delivered via radio waves or compact discs. Heck, I still own and play music on vinyl, cassettes, and eight track tapes.

So, into the present I boldly went with my brother’s handy wayfinder set for a Lake Michigan cottage. As my automobile’s sound system is still nonfunctional, I enjoyed hearing the GPS unit’s disembodied voice. In one half mile bear right, you say?  Will do, amazing machine!

Then again, my trust in this technology was slightly shaken on the trip. Though friends had provided me with step-by-step instructions for joining them at their vacation getaway, my wonderful contraption adamantly recommended a different route, which I took. The thing was, after all, communicating with satellites orbiting the planet.

This new course wasn't so bad; I drove a few more miles than planned, but also got to experience a heretofore unexplored portion of west Michigan. Are you familiar with the city of Zeeland?  Signage throughout the town invite one to, “Feel the Zeel,” a suggestion I found charming, though ungrammatical.

To its credit, the GPS got me where I was going. That isn’t a surprise; we allow gadgets to manage and safeguard our lives every day. An aircraft’s autopilot maintains course, a programmable thermostat reduces energy use, electronic timers wake you for work and tell you when the quiche is done, and the automatic feeder gives Fluffy his cat crunchies.

Heck, we even trust the surgical robot to excise only the parts it’s supposed to.

Still, we don't let the airplane appliances do our takeoffs and landings, do we?  That's probably for good reason; my GPS got confused in the last mile of my return, recalculating me back on the highway as opposed to the very next turn into my subdivision, the latter path being the shortest to home.

And we cannot forget stories of tourists and professional truckers alike being directed into ponds, swamps, and golf courses by their mechanical guides. So, despite any talk about self-driving cars, you can bet I'll be the one deciding how to get where I'm going.

At least that way, finding my way back when I get lost won't mean yelling at some stupid machine.

 

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com

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