I'm Sorry Miss Directions!

Reads: 316  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
As I drove across the country I depended on a new gadget I was learning - the GPS in my Blackberry that I was trying to figure out and she was haughtily trying to figure out me. We bonded on a month long trip across the country from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.

Submitted: November 29, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: November 29, 2015

A A A

A A A


I’m Sorry, Miss Directions!

By Chris Chabot

 

It was ironic that as the technological transformation in communications was exploding, the California economy was imploding.  I had spent most of my life in Information Technology, writing and now, teaching.  I had switched careers late in life and was now stalled on the information highway.  It was time to redirect my life and move out of California.  I had no idea that the new technology would accompany and affect my trip so profoundly. 

And so, on February 28, 2010, after 30 years of living in Southern California, I packed everything I could into my minivan and drove across the country to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to look for teaching jobs.  I covered ten states and drove 5,100 miles armed only with my Blackberry, which contained my trusty GPS (named Miss Directions by my son) to guide me through the terrain.  This is our story.

As I left Los Angeles, Miss Directions announced, “Take I-45 for five hundred and twenty four miles,” accentuating each syllable as if to make sure I really understood what I was about to do.  Despite articles claiming a GPS never changed its tone, owners had told me stories of their GPS’s growing cold and distant when they took a wrong turn and talking down to them until they got back to the correct path. 

My biggest concern during the entire trip:  extreme weather.  I was heading through the heart of tornado alley.  The last thing I wanted was to be singing my heart out to Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” on the radio while an F5 tornado barreled down on me from behind.  I worried it would turn my minivan into Dorothy’s house in Wizard of Oz as I sang, “And I’m Fre- aaaaah!” at 3,000 feet in the air. 

Several hours into my trip, Miss Directions grew cold and stern:  “You are not on a road. Drive 100 yards to I-40 and continue east.”  I was waiting for her to add:  “Now!”  As I pulled to stop, she sounded like a preacher’s wife that had caught me coming out of a liquor store on a Sunday morning.  Like if I ever did enter an address that was a liquor store, she would say “Oh, hell no!” and release an ejection seat I never knew I had before frying my car battery.

I ignored Miss Directions and walked towards the restroom.  As I entered the men’s room, I looked around in awe.  The bathroom ceiling was extremely high.  The room was bright, large and very brick.  Wow, now this was a Texas bathroom.  Did it double as a church on Sundays?  It looked like it was meant to hold 200 people.  I saw a sign near the door:  “Tornado Shelter”.Oh, this was a bunker.  I wondered just how many tornadoes had criss-crossed this area to make this a standard piece of architecture.  Now, every time I saw a town site that looked new, I wondered if it was built on top of the previous four towns that had been destroyed by tornadoes.I pictured a town sign with five names on it, the previous four having been crossed out.  “Welcome To:  Pleasantville (crossed out), Phoenixville (crossed out), Flatville (crossed out), Agnostaville (crossed out), Perdition Alley.  Population:  six.”  

Meanwhile, Miss Directions was still acting snippety from my stop.  At one point I distinctly heard her say “Turn left in point four miles, Butthead”.  I looked down in shock.  My GPS just called me a butthead!  Then, point four miles later I saw the road.  It was called Buddead.  Okay, she was off the hook for now.  Sometimes we came to roads with hard to pronounce names and it sounded like Miss Directions was covering her mouth the way someone does when they say their age and don’t want you to hear what they said. 

I began to drive down dirt roads with no signs.  To my shock, Miss Directions continued to guide me down the dirt roads as if they were regular highways, giving name after name.  Was she just making this up as she went along?  This was a new trick of hers.  It was like watching a blindfolded sharpshooter blasting the cigarette out of the spinning assistant’s mouth.

Miss Directions started redirecting me onto smaller highways and roads.  I was getting nervous.  I wondered if she thought I had put in “take me yonder up into the holler” instead of an address.  She took me through places Andy Griffith would have considered rural.  At one point, I went down a very small road and two guys looked at me.  Both were wearing overalls and looked at my car like they didn’t see many cars go by and the one guy said something to the other.  I’m convinced he said “Wow, that GPS must have REALLY been angry at that dude!”  As she uttered “Recalculating” over and over, I thought, uh oh, Miss Directions has turned into Hal the computer from “2001:  A Space Odyssey”.  She is going to tell me that she has detected that my back left tire is going to go flat soon, and when I get out, she is going to snip my air hose and leave my body in a field somewhere. 

Around this time, the sky began to grow dark and rain started to pour down.  I noticed the clouds were moving extremely fast, and some were beginning to circle.“Wow”, I said to myself.  “I think that might become a small tornado!”  I had heard on the radio that an F-2 had touched down farther north in Oklahoma. 

I pulled onto a side road and got out to take a picture.  As I did, I could hear Miss Directions sounding like R2D2 flipping out from her seat in the ashtray.  I think she was screaming “GET BACK IN THE #$%# CAR NOW!”I snapped a quick picture and hopped back in.  Miss Directions was leaning sideways, I assume in an attempt to get out of the car and find a low lying ditch. 

Suddenly, my phone went from three little signal lines to one, and then said “No signal”.  I kept driving.  Miss Directions was now curled up on my back seat in a sleep so deep, I could hear her snoring.  After a few miles, my phone beeped:  I was connected again.  I could hear Miss Directions getting up and rubbing her eyes. 

Six miles from my destination, I was surprised by a blinding snowstorm and saw what Miss Directions was capable of.  I had not driven in snow for over 30 years ago.  It felt like a giant machine dropping confetti all over my car.  The effect of the snow was hypnotic, like a monocle-wearing, goatee-bearded man swinging a watch in front of you telling you that you are getting sleepy.  I had to shake my head a few times to snap out of it. 

I was fighting to keep panic at bay, when Miss Directions called out “Exit Old Pecos Trail on the right in point four miles.”  I pleaded with Miss Directions, “Where is it?”  Half-expecting her to reply “How the hell should I know?  I can’t see in all this snow!”  She calmly told me to exit, so I did, down a long road, still blinded.  She told me to take another right.  If I ended up in a ditch or over a hill, I was doomed.  The snow would bury my car and in minutes, I would just be a white lump by the side of the road.  I would be a white lump tow trucks would drive around to get other cars stranded near me.  Suddenly I was on a very muddy road.  I wasn’t even on pavement anymore!  What was Miss Directions doing?  The snow seemed to sense my panic and picked up its pace.  All I could see were pine trees and the road began to get bumpier from large potholes that were rattling my car.  I began to wonder if I should just stop and write out a will, leaving Miss Directions to my worst enemy, when she calmly said “You have reached your destination.” 

“What?” I cried out.  “I can’t see anything but pine trees and snow!”  I rolled down my passenger window and looked up at a tall cement block with the number 514 written on it.  I pulled out my address and saw that 514 was the address I was looking for.  Had Miss Directions spoken any sooner or later, I would have passed houses with no identifying number in the snow and been eternally lost, cursing her name before falling into a frost-bitten coma.  I pulled up a bumpy dirt driveway and came to a large house tucked in the woods, where a hooded figure was standing in the doorway.  It was my friend, holding a glass of red wine out for me.  Miss Directions had led me safely to my first stop.  What a gal!

A short time later, the storm had cleared and I drove to see another old friend, named Kevin.  Miss Directions told me to take a left.  As I turned, I saw a big sign that said “E-ZPass Only.”  I was halfway down the road, and couldn’t turn around.  I picked a quiet place to get off the interstate and explain why I didn’t have a ticket.  The woman in the toll booth gave me a lecture about not letting my GPS lead me around and said too many people were relying on their GPS and making mistakes.  I covered Miss Directions with my hands as I could hear raspberry noises coming from her. 

When I met up with Kevin, he saw my GPS and started showing me his new phone.  He pointed it at buildings and it identified them.  Then he pointed it at the sky and identified stars and planets.  Then he put it under his car mirror and it started giving directions, but as soon as it said “Turn right in point four miles”, I covered the ears of my phone and GPS, half expecting Miss Directions to yell “Who in the hell is that?”  Kevin told me how my GPS is being replaced by the next generation, a far better one.  Miss Directions was silent for awhile on the way home.  I was turning down street after street, and she was not saying a thing.  I waited for her to say, “I don’t know which way to turn, why don’t you ask KEVIN’s phone!”  But then I had to finally reboot, realizing Miss Directions was not there.  She was back at Kevin’s house, face down in a pillow sobbing about the ungrateful wretches at Verizon ignoring all the work she had done.  “I got that idiot through Texas!  He doesn’t know his own map from a hole in the ground!”

When I was done with my entire trip, I found out that buying the new phone would cut my monthly phone bill in half.  I eagerly agreed.  It was only driving to the store to get the new phone that I realized this meant Miss Directions was going away.  I grew sad.  We had been through a lot together, and at times she was the only other voice I heard in the car besides my own.  I felt like I was bringing my dog into the vet to have it put down.  I would slowly stroke her head before she sleepily looked up at me and said “night night” before going into an eternal slumber.  I would miss Miss Directions.

I looked back at the one point where I realized technology and life had changed.  I was sitting in a restaurant having lunch when my phone rang.  It was my old pal Bill.  He called from the downtown Los Angeles bank he was working at.  “Chabs, problem”, he said.  “What?” I asked.  He said, “I went into Google Maps and looked up the place you are going to next.  I think they hauled it away.  There’s just an empty lot there and the entire town is full of empty, boarded up buildings.  It looks like the movie ‘The Last Picture Show’.  In fact, I think I see Sam Bottoms sweeping the streets.”  (Sam Bottoms’ character sweeps streets in the movie).Even if you find a place there it may not have Internet or phone service.  Pull up Google on your phone and take a look for yourself.  Think about stopping where you are now.”

I took in what had happened.  My friend Bill had looked on Google Maps, done a street-by-street view of a very small town and called me so I could look on my phone.  I remember back in the 1960s, when our gas station got stacks of maps of the entire country.  It took four different maps to cover the entire country.  I spread them out over the floor and looked them over in awe.  Now I had a phone telling me where to go and what traffic was like for the entire country. 

I felt like an old fogey shaking his head at manned flight, but it amazed me that the average phone now does things that would stun the 1960’s crew of “Star Trek” into silence.  I know my current phone will someday be as outdated as the portable record player I had as a child.  People will go to museums someday and point at my phone and laugh.  They’ll press a button to listen to Miss Directions talk about the idiot she had to help direct across the country. 

Twenty years ago, my trip across the country would have been far more difficult and lonely.  I would have used payphones, phone books, and postcards while I drove across the country having no idea if anyone was getting my postcards.  There would have been no Miss Directions to guide and threaten me along the way.  I certainly would not have met or visited people I saw on the trip, as they had each found me on Facebook, read about my trip and told me to stop by.  I had my high moments and low moments with Miss Directions’, but her voice was with me all the way.  I don’t know what my new GPS voice will bring to my life, but I will never forget the clipped formal female voice of Miss Directions telling me to turn right or she will recalculate.  Good bye, Miss Directions, where ever you are.


© Copyright 2020 Chabot1977. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments: