Wednesday, June 02, 2010


I was talking to a friend the other day about GPS units. She owns a B&B in Rocky Mount, VA (Claiborne House) and she regularly has guests who call saying they are lost. She provides directions right to her parking area and can never figure out why guests are calling from towns miles away.

Well, in conversation it came to us...GPS units are making people stupid. Geographically inept. Yeah, yeah, I know we all said that about calculators and how kids can't do math in their heads anymore (well, they can't, can they?) but how they could do so much more advanced math now that they had calculators.

Give this some time to sink in. Kids who can't do math in their heads but can do advanced calculus because they have calculators. Could you do advanced calculus without a calculator? I bet you could in high school and college. With the calculator, you just plug in the right formula and away you go. Sure, you have to know the right formula but do you 'check your math' to be sure the answer is probable when you use a calculator?

So, if that analogy holds true, it means GPS users can find their way to the North Pole but they won't have a clue how they got there. And, if they totally rely on the GPS, they won't realize they are actually in the wrong location when an Emperor penguin sidles up to the car. Penguins MUST be at the North Pole because that's where the GPS says I am.

I'm an old school map gal myself. (Oh, you guessed that already, didn't you?) I like to see the lay of the land. Like to know my options. If I wander aimlessly off, I want to be able to wander aimlessly back again. It helps that I was born with the 'geographic' gene. The one that allows you to land pretty much anywhere and, with map in hand, find your way to pretty much anywhere else. And, once found, allows you to wander back to point A by a completely different route.

I'm a 'landmarker.' A person who studies landmarks. And not necessarily important ones. I look at houses, mailboxes, trees, garden gnomes, odd signs, shops, restaurants, etc. And I remember them. Sometimes, I even turn around to see what everything looks like from the other direction.

When your GPS unit is telling you, 'You have arrived at your destination,' and you're in the middle of a bridge when you wanted a movie theater, keep in mind that you probably drove right past the movie theater but you weren't paying attention. Because the GPS would get you there.

Construction traffic got a road blocked off and the GPS insists you turn into a crater in the road? Get out a map. Learn how to 'landmark.' You may think the GPS is helping you arrive unfrazzled at your destination, but you're missing the point. The point is to look around, get to know where you are. What's your position in space? If you remember passing a wonderful (fill in the blank) how will you find it again with a GPS if you don't know exactly where/what it is so you can tell the GPS where to take you?

Let's spend more time wandering aimlessly instead of just 'getting there.' We're all going to the same place in the end anyway, it's the journey there that's the adventure.

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

(By the way, a lot of GPS units don't know there is a 'Lower Main St' and a 'Main St' here in town. So, if you find yourself sitting in front of Wilburs Chocolates when you meant to be here, don't say I didn't warn you. OTOH, if meant to find Wilburs and you find us instead, I'll give you a map and directions. And I won't say, 'Recalculating,' when I do so.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great blog entry. And no matter what voice you use (male, female, accent, no accent), the GPS always manages to sound so condescending when having to "recalculate".