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Thursday, April 29, 2010

My GPS is (Vindictively) Trying to Kill Me

I'm not the most technologically savvy person in the world. In fact, technology views me in much the same way animals do - I'm an easy target. Countless credit card swipe pads at stores have broken while I was attempting to use them. I can't work a remote control more complex than the standard ones you see nailed down in cheap motels. I want a cell phone that can make phone calls and send text messages - and nothing else. All those other features just confuse and irritate me. I quickly get flustered when the computer doesn't do exactly what I want it to (which really only consists of connecting to the internet, and using the internet. With an occasional word or excel document in there for good measure), and my gut reaction is to violently throw my computer out the window. Husband usually intervenes and solves the problem within 20 seconds, but my reaction is fairly standard. God help me if my car needs something more than gas, air in the tires, or an oil change. If technology doesn't work flawlessly with the minimal amount of user instruction, I'd prefer not to have anything to do with it.

So I was feeling very conflicted when Husband brought her home. GPS Lady. He was so excited to "know how to get places." I was, logically, skeptical. The first few times I tried to program the thing, Husband had to talk me down from holding her out the window of the car as we flew down the interstate, threatening to let her go flailing to her shattery death. But eventually, I got the hang of using it. Then I started to actually LIKE having it. Then I started to rely entirely upon it - I couldn't drive to the Walmart we could see from the house without her calm, reasonable directions.

Then, I, stupidly, started to trust her.

We have the GPS set to a British accent, because the standard American accent was so nasally and frantic, it stressed me out to make a simple right turn. But the British lady sounded so calm and peaceful as she guided me around town. We started referring to her as GPS Lady. We'd have conversations with her about where we were going (and how the kids were doing, the weather, etc). And she sat there, suctioned to my dash board, biding her time until I let my guard down, and she could go in for the kill.

She's tested me on countless occasions. Tested my unfailing reliance on her and obedience to her. Even when I KNOW where I'm going - if she told me to take another road, I would. This has, multiple times, resulted in extreme frustration on my part. Once, driving through Dallas, I saw the road I knew I needed to get on, but she said not to. I listened. And I ended up sitting in a traffic jam on an on-ramp for 30 minutes, as I longingly watched traffic speed down the road I should have taken. Another time she made me late for a doctor's appointment by intentionally waiting till we were 1/4 mile past our exit to tell me to exit. Again, I ended up sitting in traffic. And just yesterday, she told me to head straight through Austin in morning rush-hour traffic. It took me over 20 minutes to go just 3 miles. I kept thinking I could hear a soft British chortle amid the rumbling engines and honking horns.

In the 13th hour of my 14+ hour drive yesterday from San Antonio to Husband's parents in northeast Arkansas, I got my revenge. A new extension of a highway was recently completed, cutting out over an hour of driving on terrifying backwoods two-lane highways. GPS Lady is unaware of this new road. I laughed to myself as she, flustered, tried to direct me from what, to her, was clearly the middle of a swamp.

"Make an immediate u-turn," she calmly instructed me. "Haha, NO! You can't make me!" I was loving my brief moment of supposed superiority. "Proceed to nearest road and turn left," she sternly suggested. Again, I laughed in my defiance. "Make a u-turn. Turn left. Proceed to nearest road and turn left. MAKE AN IMMEDIATE U-TURN!" I could hear the anger rising in her computery throat. And I just laughed.

"You don't know where we are, you stupid GPS Lady. Thinking you're always so smart and better than me. Well, how do you feel about me driving in the middle of nowhere?" I was thoroughly enjoying my triumph. But my victory was short lived.

After just 12 miles of finally driving where I wanted, the new highway connected to the backwoods highway system again, and we were back in her territory. By now, it had grown completely black with night - there are, of course, no street lights on backwoods Arkansas highways.

She quickly composed herself (tucked her fallen strands of grey hair back into her beehive, no doubt), and that's when she decided things had gone far enough. She knew I had no other choice but to, once again, rely fully on her for instruction, and she was going to be the final victor.

We drove a short distance, and she told me to prepare to make a left turn. I slowed down significantly, straining my eyes to see the road she wanted me to take. As I started to turn the wheel, still unsure of the exact location of the road (but it was right HERE! It had to be HERE! I could see where I was on the map on GPS Lady!), my eyes finally focused and I realized she was trying to steer me into a swamp - not a road at all!!

"Oh, you stupid GPS Lady," I quickly brushed off the offence, thinking she must just still be confused. Little did I know.

And on we went, deeper into the terrifying black depths of the swampy Arkansas backwoods.

After a few more miles, she prepared me to make a right turn. Up ahead, I could see an old, worn out pick-up pulling out of the street she wanted me to turn on. It was rusted all over and coughing on its own exhaust. The type of truck a backwoods Arkansas inbred would drive? As I neared the street, I slowed down to a crawl, scanning for the road and signs of danger (after all, she HAD just tried to steer me into a swamp). Finally, I could make out the corners of the road. It was an old, gravel road, and I could only see about 15 feet or so of it, stretching back into the pitch black woods.

I had come to a complete stop to investigate this "road" she wanted me to turn on. As I scanned the part of the road I could make out, I realized it came to an end shortly past the 15 feet I could originally see - it faded into the unmowed grass. My eyes started darting around the area. And there is was, looming in the blackness just to the right of the road. The only way I could have missed seeing it before was due to the extreme level on concentration I was focusing on finding the road.

The massive wooden structure beckoned me horribly from its shadows. I could make out the crumbling old curved roof and the jagged broken glass windows. The boards making up the sides of it were curling away, as if they, too, were disgusted by the building. The tall grass engulfed the lower three feet of it, whispering evilly as it danced in the breeze.

Clearly, this was a Rape Barn.

And GPS Lady was trying to lure me in through my naive gullibility and blind trust. She was trying to kill me.

I slammed on the gas and sped down the (paved) highway. I could feel the cold wisps of my near-death experience whirling around me. Chills ran along my spine and sent goosebumps down my arms. Thankfully, the Rapist had just left in his truck, or I likely wouldn't have been able to escape so easily. His inbred Deliverance families' hungry eyes had been staring out from the broken windows, I was just sure of it, and their haunting gazes followed my taillights longingly into the dark.

I reached up and pulled GPS Lady from her all-seeing post and unceremoniously threw her into the middle consul. I thought I could hear a vague trace of disappointment as her muffled British voice told me she had lost satellite contact.

After several more miles, I finally came along a single street lamp and a sign pointing the way to Jonesboro and telling me it was only 5 more miles. I sped the rest of the way, and rejoiced as more and more street lights appeared on the horizon, and the death-forests receded back, giving way to civilization.

Never again will I blindly trust GPS Lady. Although I know I'll still use her, I will err on the side of caution, relying on my own instincts to override her calm British demands. But next time you get in the car and type in a destination to your friendly GPS, just keep in mind, they know where they Rape Barns are.

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