Gary Brown: Kinder, gentler GPS needed for driving
I keep a woman’s voice on the GPS in my car because it seems to have a kinder and gentler tone than the man’s voice.
I already cart around enough guy friends to know that all male voices will have a sarcastic side when they provide travel navigation.
“At the next exit get off the highway like your golf drives leave the first tee — way right ...”
A woman’s voice offers an advance warning, almost an assurance, simply by calmly saying, “In 1.5 miles, exit right.” My friends also will comply when I ask them to stop waiting until we’re almost past the exit to tell me we’ve got to use the exit, but they’ll make me wish I hadn’t brought it up.
“You want to know ahead of time? Sure, no problem. In 16.734928 miles, turn left ... No, 17.734816 miles ... Wait, now it’s ... ”
If I had a male GPS voice, I’d always have to be asking, “You wanna drive, Bozo?”
ORDERS GET OLD
Even the woman’s voice, however, begins to sound bossy.
“Turn right,” it will tell me, without the hint of a “please.”
Oh, it’s polite enough. It doesn’t shout or pout. Still, if you travel far enough, the woman’s voice will begin to have an edge to it, as if you’ve passed by too many rest stops.
Ignore any of its orders and it’ll say “recalculating,” with a condescending air, as if you’re a dufus kind of driver who can’t get there by yourself. So, why do you keep thinking you know more than the GPS voice?
Computer voices have that kind of confidence, strengthened by each update or advance in technology. They’ve got access to maps, mileage statistics, satellite views, road construction alerts and long lists of street names — all programmed permanently into their little chip heads — and they know it.
All a semi-lost driver like me has got going for him is a belief that “I’ve been here before and I remember I turned where there was a gas station, a drug store or a bank branch on the corner ...”
“Travel 53 miles and exit right,” the voice will say in a way that is calm and reassuring, but stubborn. It seems to say, “I’m never going to agree with you or think you actually know where you’re going. I’m just looking ahead so I can get you pointed back in the right direction when you get lost. Let’s not argue about it.”
GOOD GPS VOICE
What I need is a GPS voice that understands me. I want a GPS that will respect my navigation skills. I should have a GPS voice that not only will appreciate my talent for driving but will also make a gushing comment about it.
“Travel 76 miles and exit left, while I just keep silent because I know we’re all in good hands while you’re driving.”
Thank you. And wouldn’t it be nice if a GPS voice asked you to turn, instead of ordering you to get off the road?
“If it’s all right with you, in one mile, we’ll exit right, OK?”
And, when a driver gets to the end of the exit, it would be pleasant to receive a little praise for a job well done. A GPS voice should follow a “Turn right” with a “Very nice turn ...”
And let’s forget that whole snide “recalculating” remark after you and GPS disagree.
I think all GPS voices should say, “Oh, how nice, I see you know a better way!”
Gary Brown writes for the Canton (Ohio) Repository.