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John K. Herr Headshot

Her and Him: Getting Lost in America

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Her tells the story of a man falling in love with a machine ("Been there, done that" say the nation's women.) The movie, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, is set in the future. But let's not forget about the electronic operating system we love now: our GPS device. In fact, we may love it too much. How did we ever get around without it?

The following conversation between a lost driver and his GPS system takes place in the present, in the suburban community of Hoover near Birmingham, Alabama. All street names and directions are incredibly confusing and, incredibly, accurate.

"Hello GPS. I'm on Lorna Road, I just crossed the 459 freeway, headed south and I'm looking for Old Rocky Ridge Road."

I understand. Take your next left.

"I see Rocky Ridge Ranch Road on my left."

That is not the same road. You have gone too far. Make a U-turn. Old Rocky Ridge Road will now be on your right.

"I see Rocky Ridge Road on my right."

No, that is a different street as well. Make another U-turn.

"I can't, there's too much traffic. I'm taking a right onto Rocky Ridge Road."

Recalculating. Take your next right onto Ridge Park Drive and turn around.

"Okay. I can't seem to find it. Oh shit, I just crossed the other freeway, the 65."

What road do you see in front of you now?

"Loch Ridge Road."

Take a right onto Loch Ridge Road, then a left onto Loch Ridge Trail. Take your first left back onto Rocky Ridge Road.

"Old Rocky Ridge Road?"

No, just plain Rocky Ridge Road. Pay attention!

"Alright, I think I got it. Now I need to get to Ridge Ranch Circle."

Recalculating. Stay on Rocky Ridge Road. Cross the 65 again going west. Turn left onto Lorna Road.

"Okay, I'm on Lorna Road now. Do I turn left onto Lorna Ridge Lane?"

No. That is a dead end.

"How about Lorna Ridge Drive?"

No, that will take you back to Rocky Ridge Road.

"Rocky Ridge Ranch Road?"

No! Just plain Rocky Ridge Road! Stay on Lorna Road, cross the 459 again going south. Do not take Old Rocky Ridge Road on your immediate left. Go half a mile, you will see Rocky Ridge Ranch Road on your left. Take it.

"I thought you said don't take it!"

I changed my mind. Go about a mile and you will see Ridge Ranch Circle on your left. Do not go too far.

"Why?"

Because Rocky Ridge Ranch Road bears right, and if you take the next left it turns into Rocky Ridge Ranch Road.

"Rocky Ridge Ranch Road turns into itself?"

Don't condescend. I hate when you're condescending.

"Okay. Now what?"

Now you hit Old Rocky Ridge Road.

"But that's where I am now!"

Sigh. Recalculating. I'm always recalculating for you. Take a right onto Old Rocky Ridge Road. It will cross over the 65. Have you crossed over yet?

"Yes. Now I see Old Rocky Ridge Lane on my right."

That's too far! Is my chip speaking English? Turn right onto Old Rocky Ridge Lane. Then go a hundred yards and turn right onto the other Old Rocky Ridge Lane.

"What happens if I go straight on the first Old Rocky Ridge Lane?"

It dead ends. Like this relationship.

"Don't get smart with me, computer. Now what?"

Recalculating. Turn around. Take the first Old Rocky Ridge Lane back to Old Rocky Ridge Road. Turn left. Cross the 65 going west. Take a left onto Rocky Ridge Ranch Road, then a right onto the other Rocky Ridge Ranch Road. Bear left. Ridge Ranch Circle is your first right.

"Thank you, I see it now. I'm almost here."

So is Christmas. What is it that you do, human?

"I drive an ambulance. Let's pick up our patient, boys."