GPS, Alice, and the White Rabbit

Recently my GPS failed me. Utterly.

To be fair, that’s the first time the GPS has ever truly failed me. Oh, often the route that she finds could be improved on, and sometimes road construction has changed a traffic pattern since the map was last updated. Still, Alice does great. (I decided the computer-generated voice pronouncing street names needed a name. Since her sometimes erratic pathing makes me wonder if she’s following the white rabbit, she’s Alice.)

I was driving to a restaurant in a town I’d never been to before. The street address took me to a spot in the road, not at all right. I turned into a subdivision to stop on a side street. (Simple rule: look at the road while the car is moving.) I had the GPS list food, nearest first. Entering the name of the restaurant gave an eight minute estimate. I followed the route for about 10 minutes before realizing something new was wrong. I pulled over again. The directions had me heading out of town entirely. It was 18 miles just to the next turn, and Alice still estimated that I could arrive in eight minutes. Perhaps she’d had the Mad Hatter’s tea. I pulled over again, canceled and re-entered. Alice gave the same bizarre estimate and location somewhere through the looking glass.

Please understand, I can read a map, and I’m not afraid to do so. But since I’ve never been in the town before, my opportunities to buy a map ahead were limited. I’d stopped close to the hospital, and all the buildings nearby were medical-related. I hadn’t passed a gas station in at least 30 minutes, although some of that was repeatedly yielding and merging in a busy traffic circle. So no service stations around to buy maps.

I had a moment of despair. Then I turned right twice, and decided to ask directions at a physical therapy place. I hated to do so; most people can’t give directions. I asked the woman there if she had a moment to help a random stranger. She did, she was local, and she gave great directions. She closed her eyes to visualize the traffic circle. Her directions had me take the only circle exit I hadn’t previously, and I arrived a little over an hour late.

I’d called my friends to tell them I was going to be late, and they were very understanding. It was fine. Technology failed. My self-reliance failed. Asking for a bit of guidance worked great. Remember that the next time the path seems unclear.

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