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I realized then that the problem might be outdated navigation maps—even though we bought the GPS in the past year.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.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Beware the Evil Eye (pooh pooh)

Here’s something new I’ve discovered about my sixty-something self: I’ve become superstitious. I don’t mean that I refuse to leave the house on the 13th—especially when it falls on a Friday—or that I avoid walking under ladders (although this doesn’t come up very often). Most of my superstition revolves around illness, even death, or its possibility.

For example, like everyone else in America, we received our Census 2010 form in mid-March. The note that came with it says in ultra-bold letters: “Please complete and mail back the enclosed census form today.” Then, the first question asks how many people are living in my home as of April 1, 2010. It’s only March now. What if I say “2” and then, God forbid, something happens to one of us before April 1? If I mailed in the form before the deciding date, am I jinxing my life or my husband’s? Silly, I know. Yet…

I also tend to knock on wood a lot, and not just when something is spoken, like “I haven’t had a cold in six months!” I also do it, or at least want to, when I think something like that. Intellectually, I don’t really believe that tapping on the dresser is going to prevent me or my loved ones from getting sick, but somehow it makes me feel in control. This leads me to think I may have a touch of OCD, which, if I let it, will set me off on a whole new path of worry.

Where did I get this behavior? I think back to when my first daughter was born in the mid-60s. My mother was peering into her crib, remarking over how beautiful she was, alternating with utterances of “pooh pooh”—but thankfully not spitting—which is supposed to ward off the Evil Eye that retaliates at such declarations of beauty, health, and well-being. She also tied a red ribbon around one slat of the crib to reinforce the pooh poohs.

But in those days, and decades after, I wasn’t nearly as superstitious as she was. I was optimistic and, although realistic, did not think disaster was going to strike at any time. To be fair to my mother, she lost her mother tragically when my grandmother was fatally struck by a car. My mother was 14 and the youngest of six children. So I always understood why she was determined to do everything to ward off that Evil Eye. I was just as determined to not be that way.

And here I am now, fraught with my own brand of superstition, just short of pooh poohing. I still haven’t mailed the Census 2010 form, but I did fill it out with a bold declaration of two [healthy] people living in our household. Pooh pooh.