THE BLOG
12/21/2011 04:22 pm ET | Updated Feb 20, 2012

Marrying Technology (GPS Junkie)

There's a lot of blather from the nutjobs who don't believe that people in love should be allowed to marry each other. They claim that this will lead to people marrying their pets (who among us has a pet we're not already married to?), or our cars. That's ridiculous.

Me -- I was going to marry my GPS.

But now I'm getting cold feet.

I hate getting lost. Hate it. I have a great sense of direction and I can go a place once, come back 10 years later and know where everything is by recognizing buildings. I am unable to do this in the natural world where all I have to look at are trees, but at least it's useful in man-made environments -- like roads, when I'm in the car.

I remember in the dark ages (Thomas Brothers Maps), when I would constantly get lost in the San Fernando valley -- at night. It all looked the same -- flat with straight streets and gas stations and car lots. I was trying to deliver a script to Yvette Mimeux (I was a writer by day, a messenger by night), and I couldn't figure out where I was. Or she was.

In situations like this, my first line of defense is to scream. Loud. I'm not positive what this is meant to accomplish, but perhaps it's a form of sonar or echo-location, and that when I hear the reverberation coming off the foothills, I will some how magically sense where I am. It has yet to work, but I don't give up that easily.

I get absolutely furious that I don't know where I am. And, because it's night, I can't tell where the sun is, so I can't figure out where "up" (north) is. Of course, this same thing happens to me during the day when there isn't a large body of water like an ocean somewhere so I know where "west" is. The mid-west is just one big navigational nightmare to me. And Santa Barbara -- don't get me started -- the bay's not west like any normal body of water is -- and if you tell me it's west, I'll have to reply, "Maybe it is now but when I was there..."

From this you will assume, partly in error, that I am a "destination" man, not a "journey" man. And, it's true -- when I have a place to go, I actually like to get there.

But, when I travel, I am happy to wander, even get lost, for days on end. In Venice I went to a completely wrong part of the city, met a great artist and it ended up being the highlight of my trip.

I can even wander in parts of the United States, like New York City -- on foot. But somehow, I have not mastered the art of careless wandering while behind the wheel. When I drive, I am driving somewhere.

Which is why I love my GPS, or at least used to.

She has:

  • A calm female voice who doesn't get pissed off when I don't follow her directions. She simply says "rerouting" and goes with the flow.
  • A map in her head of the roads and streets in the entire continental US and Canada (I mean, who knows all that?)
  • An encyclopedic knowledge of restaurants, hotels, and points of interest, including the entire AAA book of magical travel knowledge.
  • She works where cell phones fear to tread.
  • She even works on battery, so when I rented a car in Colorado and the cigarette lighter didn't work--she still did!

But, like all relationships, there were problems. Like -- she could be stubborn:

"When possible, make a legal u-turn" she would tell me -- even though I knew if I drove in the direction I was going she could really re-route and find me another way.

A few times, she got me in the vicinity of the destination, then kept having me make u-turns until I was driving around in circles. In times like that I take comfort in the fact that I can turn her off.

I expected her to tell me things like, "There's someone in the cross-walk, Dave." Or "Can't you see the light is yellow, stop already?" or "There's a car coming from the right." I mean, she knew everything else, why not that? Very disappointing.

And -- if I knew how to get some place, I should never have played with her, because I discovered her routes sometimes made no sense at all. Somethings I'd rather not know.

Still, we did fine. I named her Gertrude (after my grandmother), Pearl (a gem!) Schwartz.

But then we started to fight. She'd say things like, "Turn left on Maple" after we'd already passed Maple -- just like the directions that real live women had given me in the past. Then her "Calculating route" started to sound, well, calculating. Judgemental.

One time when she insisted I make a legal u-turn five times in a row I screamed, "I'm not making a u-turn, it's your job to figure out where I am and where I'm going -- that's all you have to do, now do it!" Or something similar using different words...

She turned herself off.

I have since learned that if I yell at her, she gets offended and turns off. I'm serious--she has a little voice recognition system that lets me say, "Distance to destination" (it should let me say, "Are we there yet?") so she obviously understands some words, and clearly the words I used were unacceptable to her.

The trouble is that I put my faith in technology and get really upset if it lets me down. Why can't my phone find a signal? Everyone around me is talking on their phones! I wonder, "Why me?"

And then it finally happened last night. I was just trying to go a few blocks in a strange town, after dark, I didn't think this would be a big issue. Not big enough to open the trunk and pull out Gertrude.

So I cheated on her with a free GPS app on my iPhone. I know, I'm a horrible person. I didn't even take my GPS on a recent trip, I just used my iPhone and it was "good enough." It got me there, and that's all I cared about. Men are pigs.

I entered the address and followed the tranny voice navigation long enough to realize that even in the dark, I knew I was going the wrong way. Even I knew something was wrong.

I turned it off, parked, got Gertrude out of the trunk, and she deftly guided me to my destination in less than five minutes. Which all sounds good for Gertie, right? Except now I'm suspicious.

Today I went back to the misleading app and looked at the details. It was routing me 12 blocks away, in Northern California -- via Kansas. Yes, Kansas the state, not the street.

And I started to wonder--what if there's some kind of GPS virus designed to get us all lost again? My app had clearly gone insane. Would Gertrude guide me to Georgia? Her battery was already not holding a charge. What next? Silicon senility? Would she encourage me to drive minors across interstate lines?

So the wedding's off.

And I deleted the insane "get lost" app.

Now I'm dating my iPhone, even after what it did. What can I say -- love's not logical.

It's looking really serious. I'll be posting our wedding registry on the iTunes store.