Lost in Suburbia: When navigation systems revolt

Tracy Beckerman

Our GPS has a speech impediment.

“In 500 yards, turn bleft,” she said.

“Did she say ‘bleft,’” I asked my husband.

“I don’t know,” he responded. “I’m trying to find the turn.”

“Turn bleft,” the GPS announced.

“Here’s the road, Honey; turn bleft,” I echoed, laughing. “Oh, and watch out for the blump in the road!”

My mother taught me not to make fun of people who have speech problems. But I figured I had some leeway here because the GPS was a machine, not a real lady who talked flunny.

The GPS was actually a gift from my husband to me. When we had gotten our car, navigation systems were not yet widely used. We lived GPS-free for quite some time, and when we needed directions, we used an actual map or stopped and asked someone. But then we got another car that did have a GPS, and suddenly I realized what we had been missing. Or rather, my husband did. 

Although the GPS and I told him which way to go, there was one major difference. When we missed a turn, the GPS would say, “rerouting,” in a calm, sexy voice, and I would yell, “Aaahhh, you missed the turn!!! Quick, get off at the next exit. Watch out for that truck!! Aaaahhhh!”

Anyway, he thought his GPS was pretty great, and I had to admit, it did help us out once or twice when we got lost in some cow pastures in rural Vermont.

So when he came home one day with a portable GPS for my car, I accepted graciously, if not a wee bit reluctantly.

We decided to take “Priscilla,” our new GPS, out for a test drive on a trip out of town.

We were very impressed in the beginning when she told us to make a series of right turns. But then the time came to turn left, and that’s when the shlit hit the flan.

“Maybe, she’s confused and we’re not actually supposed to turn left,” I said to my husband. “If she can’t say it right, maybe she doesn’t have the directions right, either!”

I was a more than a little bit concerned. We were driving up a series of switchbacks along the side of a very steep mountain. One false direction from Priscilla and we would be bungee jumping off the mountain -- without a bungee.

“Turn bleft,” she said. “And then turn sharply bleft.”  I looked ahead to the left, and all I saw was a guardrail.

“DON’T turn bleft,” I shrieked.  “Turn blight!”

“What the heck is a blight?” asked my husband.

“It’s the predicament we’re going to be in if we turn bleft!” I shrieked some more.

My husband pulled over to the side of the road.

“Priscilla knows where she is going, Honey.” He said calmly. “Here, look at the map.” He took out a real paper map and showed me the route. As it turned out, there was a turn just past the guardrail. A left-hand turn.

“It’s just a funny GPS glitch,” he said in a soothing tone. “We’re not going to go over the side of the mountain.”

I looked doubtfully at him.

“OK, would you feel better if we turned off the voice on the GPS and just followed the map?”

I shook my head. “You blet!”

Tracy Beckerman’s book, “Rebel without a Minivan” is available online at www.rebelwithoutaminivan.com and Amazon.