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Will GPS Get You There?

 “This couldn’t be the way to the Citadel,” I said and my friends agreed.  While exploring Charleston, South Carolina, we long-time college girlfriends wanted to see the campus and the buildings of this military college founded in 1842.  June had said to Siri on her phone, “Directions to the Citadel.”  We knew the Citadel was about three miles north of downtown Charleston, but the GPS directed us we through the heart of the city. 

“Let’s follow these directions and see where it takes us,” June said.  “We’re less than a mile away.”  We turned right and then left at the next intersection. Siri announced, “You have arrived at your destination, the City Jail.” 

            Somehow a southern accent and Siri, a personal assistant application, didn’t communicate and the GPS, Global Positioning System, directed us where we didn’t want to go.  And it’s happened to others.

            Monika and her husband followed GPS commands one afternoon on a scenic drive to travel from western Kentucky to Cookeville.  They turned from a four-lane interstate road to a two-lane state road.  Then onto a county road with no centerline.  The landscape was beautiful, pastoral.  White fences, weathered barns, farm crops.  The road became narrower and led to a swamp.  A swamp with no bridge over it.  “If it’d been dark, we might have driven right into that swamp,” Monica said.  “We backtracked and travelled on main highways to get home.”

            Pam and Larry chose a route to avoid traffic when they went to in Sevierville, Tennessee, and were happy to be driving on roads with few cars.  A turn took them into a residential area that had only a few small houses.  They realized their GPS has failed them when they saw a dead end street sign, and they were amused by a hand-lettered sign in the yard of the house at the end of a cul-de-sac.  “Turn around. Your GPS is wrong,” the sign read.

            One time Kathy purposely diverted from the GPS directions and was told, “Make a legal U-turn, then make a legal U-turn.”  Wouldn’t that be back where she started? And Kathy wonders what her GPS would say if she made an illegal U-turn.  Would she be reprimanded?

            Paulette was driving in unfamiliar territory to a friend’s home.  Her GPS said, “Turn left.”  She didn’t.  “Turn left,” was the next command.  Again she didn’t because she was driving on a long tall bridge over water.

            In a rush to get her son to a baseball game so he could play in Georgia, Robbie chose the fastest route according to her GPS.  She raced around curves of county roads and ended in a parking lot in the mountains at the beginning of a hiking trail.  At one time that trail was a county road. 

            I use the GPS on my van, especially when travelling out of town, but I keep my atlas close so I can see where I’ve been and where I’m going. And honestly, it’s stories like these that make me confirm directions on my old-fashioned paper maps that I can hold.

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Traveling with Lucille

Husband Allen and I made a road trip.  1290 miles, to and from Washington, DC, plus a few detours.  Some intentional, some not.  Just Allen, me, and Lucille.  Lucille was a helpful companion.  However, there were few breakdowns in communication, and we became frustrated with her.  Probably not as frustrated as she with us, yet Lucille never raised her voice.

Allen drove.  Lucille directed.  I tried to interpret Lucille’s directions or I stayed quiet.  (Many years ago, Mother told me that there are times when a wife can best help by being still and quiet.)  As we left Arlington National Cemetery, Lucille said that our hotel destination in Alexandria was 5.2 miles away.

Lucille:  On the round about, right turn at the second exit.  Three lanes of traffic swirled around a statue. “This one, right?”  Allen asked.  We’d just passed a street.  Did it say one way – no exit?  There wasn’t time to discuss if the upcoming street was the first or second exit.  We drove across the Arlington Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River and straight toward the Lincoln Memorial.

Lucille:  Keep right.  Continue on for four tenths of a mile then left turn.  A second crossing on the Arlington Bridge, in the opposite direction.  It was 6:00 p.m. Sunday.  Allen maneuvered our van across four lanes of traffic and made the turn.  Destination 7.4 miles.

Lucille: Slight left merge onto South Washington Boulevard.  Then an immediate right. “This left?”  Allen asked.  I agreed.  We were obviously on a side street.  Two cars, no tour buses.  Destination 8.6 miles.

Lucille:  In two tenths of a mile, left turn.  We passed the Imo Jima Memorial.  Allen had spotted it on a map before we left Arlington Cemetery and said that he’d like to see it, but we wouldn’t be driving close by.  I didn’t tell him that the memorial is impressive.  Destination 9.5 miles.

Lucille:  In one tenth of a mile, turn right.  We drove over heavy metal plates, the kind that’s used when a road is being repaired.  “This is no fun,” Allen said in short controlled syllables.  I agreed and said that Lucille would eventually get us to Alexandria.  “When?  Tomorrow?”  Allen asked as he turned the steering wheel.

Lucille:  Right turn ahead.  Then in eight tenths of a mile veer left onto George Washington Memorial Parkway.  Destination 9.1 miles.  At last, we were headed in the right direction.

Lucille:  Continue on George Washington Parkway.  “Which lane should we get in?”  Allen asked.  I waited for Lucille’s answer.  Surely she knew we were in the middle of five lanes of heavy traffic, traveling 70 miles per hour.  A few more turns, and finally, we heard the long-awaited announcement.

            Lucille: You have arrived at your destination.  I’m thankful Lucille traveled with us.  But she didn’t see the sights around the National Mall or the White House.  She rested inside our van in the hotel parking lot for a few days while Allen and I rode the Metro and the Hop On-Hop Off Trolley in our nation’s capital.  I don’t think Lucille would have liked the road construction detours or the one-way streets.