Who Needs a GPS?

Posted: March 9, 2010 in 1
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When my kids were young, though I HATED shopping (still do), I sometimes had to drag myself to the local mall, because my children refused to run around naked. When it was time to leave the mall, however, I panicked – I couldn’t remember which store I first walked through, nor could I remember which door I entered. What’s more, I couldn’t remember where I parked my car.

But I was lucky, because my son was like a homing pigeon and served as my GPS. All I had to say was, “It’s time to go home,” and Greg would lead me to the correct store, out the correct door, and directly to my car. Every time.

My daughters, well two of them at least, do not have my son’s gift. One day when Brittney had just received her driver’s license, I got a distress call from her. She was sobbing so heavily I couldn’t understand her words. What I managed to figure out was that she was driving down a road she’d never seen before and that she was completely lost.

“Where are you?” I asked her.

“I don’t (sob sob sob) know.'”

“Give me a clue. Read me a street sign. Tell me a landmark.”

“There are no (sob sob sob) street signs. There are no (sob sob sob) landmarks. Everything is (sob sob sob) completely (sob sob sob) black.”

What was I supposed to tell her? Keep driving until something looked familiar? Of course not. Instead I told her to turn around, go back the way she came, and keep driving until something looked familiar. I promised her I would stay on the line with her until she felt comfortable.

As I listened to the breath catch in her throat, she eventually found her way to familiarity.

“Good,” I told her, “now come home. And don’t ever do this to me again.”

The second time it happened to her (to me), she ended up driving about 100 miles in the wrong direction before she figured out she didn’t know where she was. Why would anybody not know they were going in the wrong direction for 100 miles, you ask? Good question. I have no answer. Neither did Brittney.

Brittney is not the only one of my daughters who suffers from lack of direction sense, however; Lindsey also shares the same problem. When I divorced their father, I drove them to their dad’s house a minimum of once every two weeks, a maximum of once every week for several years. When Lindsey turned 16, she decided she wanted to take the hour drive to visit her dad. (Remember, we had driven there hundreds of times already.)

Knowing how bad she was with directions, though, I wrote step by step instructions for her and sent her on her way. Halfway there she called screaming maniacally through the phone. She ended up in an unfamiliar neighborhood miles and miles away from where she intended to be and it was MY FAULT, because I had given her the directions.

“Did you go west on 167th Street?” I asked her.


“The directions I gave you said to take 167th Street West.

Lindsey was hysterical now. “THERE WAS NO SIGN THAT SAID WEST!”

“Yes, Lindsey, the sign says east or west. You should have taken the exit that said west.  Tell me the next sign you see.”

When she read me the name of the street, I could tell she had taken the exit going east. “Turn around and go back to the expressway.”

Lindsey was livid. “They” must have taken down the sign that said east or west, she insisted, because it definitely wasn’t there when she drove by it. (It took a drive to that exact exit to later prove to her that yes, the sign does indicate which direction she should have chosen.)

My little Lindsey should be on a “dire needs” list for a GPS tracking system. Or a special fund should exist somewhere to provide direction-challenged individuals like my daughters with GPS systems. Although, when I think about it, even a GPS system won’t help every time.

Like the time Lindsey thought her car was stolen and convinced a policeman to drive her to the station to report it – it was not missing – the police officer found her car parked on a different street.

I could go on and on with story after story, including my own, but I won’t. I CAN tell you how many times I have longed for a little voice to speak in my ear and tell me how to get from point A to point B without having to rely on chicken scratches to get me where I’m going (yes, my handwriting looks like chicken scratches).

I can also tell you how comforting it would be to hear a voice telling me to turn at the next street so I didn’t have to read my indecipherable handwritten directions while driving.

But I don’t have to tell you, because GPS came along and solved all my problems. Believe me when I say that, without my son to guide me, even though I’m good at following directions, GPS helps me stay focused, because my basic nature is to be distracted.

Today my son, Greg, a United States Marine, works with satellite imagery and maps. His mother relies on her GPS.

The bottom line is that GPS systems are great for people who NEED them, my daughters included, and are also great even for people who don’t. (My son has one in his car.)


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