Friday, March 26, 2010

Where the #@!%* am I? Ask my GPS.

Like many others these days, I have a GPS. It’s helped me find some sites, but for the most part, it’s failed me miserably. Today I was headed from work to my dermatologist’s office, which is located in an area familiar to me. I know how to get to the street where her office is, but the last time I was there was a year ago, and I’m not sure which of the look-alike buildings she’s in. So I decided to set up the GPS so that, when I get near the office, it would tell me where to turn in. I typed in the address and pressed “Go.”

Right off the bat I was in trouble with The Voice—that “lady” who tells you when and where to turn. She didn’t like the way I was heading. My route is the one I take home each working day, and it’s the most convenient, least stressful way to go. But The Voice kept trying to steer me down other streets. I must have heard “Recalculating” six or seven times.

At one point, I was told to turn left on Milwaukee Avenue. “Milwaukee?” I told The Voice. “There’s construction that makes that road a nightmare. Why would I take Milwaukee?” She said nothing, but spat out “Recalculating” after I refused to follow her directions.

Confidently continuing to the street I knew was the correct one, I heard The Voice tell me to turn right at the next intersection. Right? I was going someplace north of the road I was on. Turning right would take me south and nowhere near where I needed to be. Even circling back would be difficult because a lot of those side streets are dead ends. After I heard the testy “Recalculating” again for not turning right, she tried to make me turn right at the next intersection too.

I realized then that the problem might be outdated navigation maps—even though we bought the GPS in the past year. The area I was going to was developed within this decade, and the doctor’s office was in a fairly new building on a fairly new street. So where was my Garmin taking me? I turned it off, followed the street signs, and found the building with no problem.

My biggest gripe about any GPS is that it can’t adjust to my favorite routes. I can save a route that it gave me, but it will be saved as the system originally configured it, using the same streets I want to avoid. If there’s a system out there that can ask us how we want to go (like Google Maps, which lets you click on the route with your cursor and drag it to the streets you prefer), I don’t know who sells it. Instead, I’ll just keep the old-fashioned folding road maps handy, along with a printout from Google Maps. Or maybe I’ll win the lottery and hire a driver. That’s about as likely as hearing The Voice apologize for causing me emotional distress.

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