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Computerized GPS devices take all the fun out of getting lost

The computerized male voice on my GPS calmly cues me to stay to the right. From my perspective of actually driving the car, I see no other available options. I comply out of necessity. Abruptly, he interrupts my duet with Zac Brown, announcing that he's recalculating the route. I'm to make the next legal U-turn.

A No U-turn sign warns me away from following his command. The voice reiterates that he's recalculating my route. I pull into a driveway and turn around. The GPS guy stutters recalculating route, yet again. Then he has the gall to tell me that I am not just off route, I'm no longer on a recognizable road. He urges me to re-enter the highway.

By now I'm suspicious. This GPS man, computerized or not, is only pretending to know where he's going. Who knows how long he'll keep me turning circles.

My theory on the invention of GPS technology is that it was inspired when a Silicon Valley fellow got mixed up somewhere in Mississippi, gave in, and asked directions to the interstate, hoping for deliverance from the back woods to his cultural wasteland:

Okay, now, you go up yonder that-a-way a good piece and when you start to feel like you've gone too far yer gonna keep goin'. The trees is real thick on down the road so you gotta be lookin' fer the red barn. When you git to the red barn, cain't miss it, the one that used to belong to ol' John Harris, he's dead now but his daughter, Janie Lynn, still keeps up with it, you're gonna look for a left turn. It'll be the first or second, maybe the third, road on the left, and it's not so much a turn as it is a keepin' to that direction kind of thing. Cooter Brown Road I think it is, cause Cooter used to keep his coon hounds down there and . . .

By the time the Silicon Valley guy reached the interstate, which was almost quicker than getting the directions, he had designed the device in his head, launched satellites and written the software code for avoiding Mississippi, having no insight into how it would impact the human condition or the void it would create.

Before the advent of the Global Positioning System, I would stop and make contact with a human, humbly submitting my pride, counting on another individual to steer me toward my destination. There was connectivity in the interaction. Genuine, "Hey, how are ya," and, "I can't complain," and, "Ain't it nice weather we been havin'," tumbled between two strangers.

Cordials and niceties made the experience of getting turned around, as I like to call it, rather pleasant; even something to look forward to. These sessions put me in the driver's seat carefully rehearsing the intricate set of instructions. Taking one mile marker at a time, knowing there would always be another gas station up ahead if I needed straightening out, I studied the world and its landmarks for clues that I was on the right road.

The GPS sterilizes the distance between here and there, as I traverse it insulated from the journey. I miss finding my way via the graciousness of strangers who know those back roads like they know the Bible. I miss the satisfaction of putting faith in their promise of the road ahead.

Now I know what I have to do. I'm changing my GPS to a woman's voice. She'll tell me to stop and ask directions instead of driving me in circles like a man.

Lucy Adams is the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. She lives in Thomson. E-mail Lucy at

Web posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011

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