A machine replaced me. Alleluia. I couldn’t be happier.

I’m no longer in charge of road navigation, having thankfully outsourced the (non-paying) work to the satellite-directed voice that lives in my phone and car. (To be clear, I was totally unsuited and unqualified for the job.)

This GPS voice reads maps, gives definitive directions and suggests alternative routes. It was a game changer for the disabled community.

I grew up with these complex regional road maps, trying to identify a.) our current location; b.) our desired destination and c.) appropriate correction.

There was no GPS, Google Maps, Waze app, or location services. We only had the paper maps and anecdotal instructions from gas station attendants (and other online customers) who did their best to send us in the right direction.

But let’s not let nostalgia for simpler times distort the truth.

How many road trips have nearly ended in divorce or disaster before GPS started guiding our journeys? How many long detours did we endure before this capable computer voice took over?

Retrieving a card from the glove box inevitably meant things would get worse before they got better, and they were clearly already falling apart. You don’t consult a map when you KNOW where you are and where you are going. We only unfolded it once we were already lost, stuck in traffic, sidetracked by construction, or confused by instructions we had written on the back of an envelope.

By then, the driver was pissed off and the passenger was in a losing position, facing a microscopic, multicolored spider’s web of intersecting roads. There was no way to zoom. We couldn’t google a location or expect an orbiting satellite to pinpoint our planetary location.

I CAN read a map. Truly. I can determine whether we should turn left or right. I can understand where the toll highway intersects with secondary roads. I can discern a major freeway versus a county road that’s probably littered with traffic lights. Ultimately.

But I can’t do NONE of those things while driving past every freeway exit and sign at 75 mph with an overworked driver demanding instant directions.

We navigators often sought reassurance that we were reading things correctly while the driver frantically called out exit numbers and road names as we flew over.

The driver couldn’t take his eyes off the road to check the map we kept trying to shove in his face, but he refused to slow down or stop for a brief lecture, making sure the car pulled away. further away from its trajectory.

The tension invariably thickened. The voices tightened. Exasperated sighs filled the car, until someone (me, always me) gave up. I crumpled up the map in the backseat, ready at that moment to start a new life wherever we were.

Eventually the driver would nod and stop to regroup and assess the map together. The navigator (me), still a little annoyed, would smugly appreciate the driver’s difficulty in interpreting the same cobweb of the roadways, even when stationary.

Say what you want about simpler times, but I don’t want to go back to the days before GPS. Already.

These satellites in geosynchronous orbit took Stan and I to and around Tampa this past weekend for an utterly fantastic wedding. They found our AirBnB. They routed us around traffic jams on I-75 (or tried, as people insisted on passing each other).

It’s no longer me who says we missed our turn. The GPS rings slightly when rerouting. He tells Stan to turn around, then instantly finds out where we are, where we went wrong, and where we’re supposed to be.

When all goes well, it’s time to play the “GPS challenge”. This is what I call our innate desire to “trick” the satellites into accelerating and exceeding their estimated time of arrival.

“Of course we will get there at 8 p.m. IF we go 65 mph. But we can do better. We can beat that,” the driver said, straightening up and glancing at the speedometer.

Taking a minute or two off the predicted ETA is cause for celebration on an 8-hour road trip.

Last weekend’s trip gave me a lot of time to think: it would be funny to hear the GPS respond to us like a real person.

“Hey, idiot, I told you to turn left. Ding Ding. Diversion. Now you gotta do a U-ey. Good luck with that on that split highway, you idiot.

“Okay, badass. I see you speeding up. I’ll give you a few extra minutes. I’ll update your arrival time. But guess what? There are traffic jams ahead of you that will slow you down. can’t see it now, but I see everything, and a sea of ​​brake lights in three miles will have you DELETE ME for an alternate route.

Yes, times have changed, and when it comes to road trips, I’m glad to have been replaced by technology.

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