Friday, October 8, 2010

Please Don't Squeeze the Garmin

Some modern gadgets are so helpful to our daily lives that they have replaced our need, desire and even our ability to figure things out for ourselves. Schools are now required to teach the exact same thinking skills which excessive and mindless use of technology have in some cases taken away.

Having said that, I believe that many of the new inventions are brilliant. I can't imagine how we would have ever located a certain hotel in the suburbs of Chicago by night without our GPS. As with all technology, it needs to be used with some discretion and common sense. And, as with all technology, errors are a definite possibility.

A few years ago, I was riding in my cousin's car in Germany. I'm not certain where we were headed, but I recall that we were driving along side the Rhine River when the vehicle's GPS told the driver to "Make a sharp right NOW! Sharp right immediately." It kept insisting. There was no road turning right. We stared at each other, laughed at the absurdity as we realized it wanted us to drive into the river. We didn't.

Recently, I read an article in the paper. It was about a young woman who was rescued from the roof of her car after getting lost, thus driving into a swamp north of Kingston. She claimed that she was following the directions of her global positioning device. In light of the following personal story, I have no comment on this.

I am reminded of a road trip to visit family last year. There was an "incident" in the morning whereby our GPS device, was placed into the trunk for safekeeping. Also sharing the same tiny space were suitcases, Christmas gifts, an Easter basket, a pool cue, a couple of CPAPs, shoes, duty free refreshments, umbrellas, and more. By the time we remembered and retrieved it, the GPS was not only wedged, but semi permanently buried and squished into a corner.

Later that day, we drove past road signs mentioning the famed "Madison County". "I want to see bridges", I announced, stretching across the dash trying to programme the global position to create a detour toward Madison County. "I can't get this thing to work," I said in a whiney voice. (Whining is a handy skill I've learned from the dog). Sadly, it was quickly too late. We were well past Madison County or any roads likely to lead to this location.

My "nagging" curiosity about bridges resulted in hubby stopping at the next exit where I popped into a hotel to pick up some local attractions brochures. Excitedly, I located a "Bridges of Putnam County" folder. We programmed the GPS with the name of a town on the Putnam Bridge Trail. Despite the bicycle path appearance of the road, we faithfully drove the designated route.

My puzzled expression caused hubby to announce, "It doesn't always send you on the quickest route, often, it's the shortest one".

"Uh huh." I nodded as I looked at him even more quizzically.

The road took a turn, or should I say many turns, winding this way and that. Around it went, past broken down barns, piles of old wood and rusted propane tanks, past pick up trucks sporting gun racks, repossessed turquoise and pink trailers and the occasional horse or cow. Before long, we reached a forest trail which was in fact a continuation of our road. It was getting narrower and narrower and the towering trees were closing in. The GPS stood her ground and urged us on. Then the lightening began. Clouds dropped torrents of rain.

" We have to be getting closer. I see small concrete bridges," I said as we wove over several of these while crossing a small river. Finally, off to the side, a covered bridge! At this time we noticed through the downpour that the "Big Rocky Fork" bridge was not on our route. Besides that, it was shut down, in disrepair and desperate for a drink of paint. Disappointing.

The thunder and lightening cracked and flashed. "Make a right turn", she said in her programmed U.S. accent as we looked at each other skeptically. We did as we were told as the car wipers sloshed the water off the windshield at highest speed. Since we were now risking being washed away, we pulled onto a small abandoned looking trail where there were odd little buildings reminiscent of a resort town/spaghetti western mix...a historic mill, a chapel, fairgrounds, ice cream booths, gondolas but no people. Not a person in sight! There, in the middle of the fake store fronts we noticed it...another covered bridge! It was in a worse state than the earlier one, possibly even condemned.

We were told by "the voice" to take a few more roads we could not locate, so we decided to continue heading south toward our destination, where we finally saw the sun peeking through the clouds. Despite several hours of searching for dozens of bridges in Putnam County, we had managed to see two, just two very disappointing bridges, identical in their states of disrepair.

Shortly after we gave up, I was fairly certain that I heard a faint chuckle eminating from GPS 's suctioned spot on the windshield. I think I was also cured of my covered bridge least for a little while.

No comments:

Post a Comment