Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Keeping Your GPS Happy and Yourself Safely on the Road - by David

We’ve enjoyed almost 8 months now with our Garmin Nuvi 2555. She (“Navi” as we call her) has taken us to the Wenatchee-Leavenworth, WA, area for Christmas 2011. At this moment we are 2/3 of the way through our summer circle trip down through Southern Oregon and Northern California, then up through Idaho and back home.

Life with Navi has been mostly wrinkle free, but we’ve had our moments with her. Through it all we’ve figured out several very important lessons, plus stumbled upon the next great idea in advertising.

Lesson 1 is that your GPS is much smarter than she lets on, and usually much smarter than the driver. I swear that Navi just likes to piss me off. The “voice command” feature is particularly exasperating. She has trouble understanding my pronunciation and then she pronounces many town and street names oddly. For example, she completely mangles “Wenatchee”. On our current trip, as I asked Navi to lead us to the zoo in Sacramento, she could not understand “Sacramento”! “Did you say ‘Lemon Grove’? Navi asked politely. I tried every way I could think of to say Sacramento – in perfect Spanish, Gringo, east coast, west coast, all long vowels, fast, slow, emphasis on the last syllable, etc. No luck. As I got more frustrated, I started yelling at Navi, calling her stupid, and worse. She clearly dug in her heals (if she has heals) and had a little fun with me. “Did you say ‘Salmon Quiche’”, Navi asked in her polite voice, this time dripping with sarcasm. I finally had to type it in, and it’s not the easiest or shortest name to spell. Navi was fine with easy names, like Davis, CA.

Lesson 2 is that you must speak nicely to your GPS. See Lesson 1 above. During our stay in Davis (daughter and son-in-law, with granddaughter, were attending a conference on the UC-Davis campus), we all took a day trip to San Francisco. We know our way around SF, and it soon became clear that Navi was taking us on very out-of-the-way routes to get where we wanted to go. With Jon on his iPhone in Google Maps, this was easily confirmed. Google Maps would have taken us on the most direct route every time. I’m not sure if Navi was still mad at me, or if she was gearing up for this next great advertising gimmick. (See below). But I’m not taking any chances. You know all those stories about drivers that drive off a cliff or drive into a lake? I felt like Navi was speaking to me subliminally and I started imagining us driving off Pier 39 and into the bay! I am convinced that these tragic incidents COULD involve people who were not kind to their GPS. I’m being very patient with Navi from now on.

Now for the next great idea in advertising. There was that whole weird routes thing in SF. But most strange of all was a little unplanned detour on the way to SF. I swear on a stack of satellites that Navi was directing me to an exit off I-80 in order to continue across the bay. Then came Navi’s most irritating feature: whenever you stray off the course set by Navi, she shouts “recalculating” in the most annoying and obnoxious voice. If you really deviate a lot in a short amount of time, then she yells a whole string of “recalculating”’s, one about every 4 seconds. (I've pushed her to her limit a couple times - the AC shut off and the interior lights started flickering). Anyway, I couldn’t figure out why she was yelling the R-word – I was just following her course! And the course set by Navi had by now disappeared from the screen. Very suspicious. I stopped the car and there it was: a new Six Flags near Berkeley, nearly ready to open. (We were right at the gate, with no one else around; it was very much a Chevy Chase-Walley World-Vacation movie moment). Then there was that little subliminal voice again, “this detour brought to you by Six Flags.” We’re convinced that Navi has been partially programmed for this new form of advertising and the next time we run an on-line update we expect the complete program to be implemented. (Should I run this update? If I don't, we COULD someday drive off a cliff or into a lake... you know, that whole "bridge to nowhere" thing. But then if we run the update, Navi gets to choose the detour, as many as she wants, which COULD be a cliff, a lake, or even a McDonald's. What to do, what to do...). 

So lessons learned: be nice to your GPS (it knows what you're thinking) and just get used to the next wave of advertising with a lot of detours. "This detour brought to you by the San Francisco Tourism Commission", "This detour brought to you by Denny's", "This detour brought to you by ___________." Fill in the blank. 

Would anyone like to buy a slightly used GPS with a name and an attitude?

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