My wife and I were in Boston recently, driving to a French restaurant where we were looking forward to having lunch. The city is complicated territory to us country mice, but the GPS lady –nice, if a bit of a know-it-all—seemed to have it under control. Do this, do that, turn here, turn there, turn in 200 yards, yadda yadda. And then voila, “You have arrived at your destination.” But the thing is, we hadn’t. We were in a corner of a mostly empty parking lot of an unknown mall. What we used to call lost.
If we had gotten lost pre-GPS we would at least have some clues as to where we were in relation to the last time we hadn’t been lost. But of course we hadn’t been paying attention, just following orders. Now all we knew is we were here, with no sense of how here connected with anyplace else in the universe, including our restaurant.
We were daunted and dismayed, but not for long. My wife, whose smart phone we had been using and who comes much closer than I to being as smart as the phone, soon had us re-programmed. The phone knew where we were, got us started again from wherever it was, and in not too long a time, voila. For real this time.
These devices work amazingly well. Usually. But it got me thinking: now that we no longer use those maps tucked in the door pocket, although you may get where you want, you never know where you are. You don’t have to. The Eye in the Sky always knows where you are, even if you don’t.
I have always prided myself on having a “good sense of direction” (vestigial term for a vestigial function). Not as good as birds who can find your backyard at the end of a 3000 mile flight from their winter headquarters in Central America. But pretty good for a dullwitted human. Using the old internal compass, being able to read maps and understand their relationship to the actual world—all that felt like an appreciable power. And I was happy to exercise it. Outsourcing to Siri or whoever, won’t that power begin to atrophy?
I’m as susceptible as the next person to the charming competence of the GPS lady. But I also resent her horning in on my traditional territory.
[PLEASE NOTE: THE NONSENSE UNDER THE TITLE “THE WAY TO COMPOSE ANY POETRY” THAT APPEARED UNDER MY NAME HERE AT SOME POINT ON 30 JULY WAS NOT BY ME. IT WAS A HACKING (AS I HOPE WAS EVIDENT IN THE READING).]