Monday, January 22, 2007

Open the Podbay Doors, Hal

As part of the Universe's ongoing efforts to drag me kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, my darling wife Christine gave me a GPS for Christmas. GPS. That stands for Global Positioning System for those of you who, like me, might have thought it was the initials of yet another new TV network spinning off from UPN and the WB. Mine is a Magellan RoadMate 3050T and it's really rather remarkable. You just attach it to your windshield, turn it on, punch in a destination, and it tells you where to go. This was not exactly a new experience for me, since people have been telling me where to go for years now, but using it for the first time this weekend was, in its own way, rather illuminating.

Christine and I were out in Agoura having dinner with our friends David and Audry Wise. Most of you will know David from his incredible work developing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for animation, as well as Mighty Ducks and Lord knows how many other terrific series. These days, David and Audry are publishing the successful Go Comi line of Manga comics. Anyway, as Chris and I were getting ready to leave, we discovered the 101 Freeway was backed up for miles in the direction we were about to be heading.

Now, when you program a destination, in this case our home, into the Magellan, it offers you four possible routes: Shortest Time, Shortest Distance, Most Use of Freeways, or Least Use of Freeways. Since the Freeway was currently a parking lot, we opted for Least Use of Freeways to see what would happen.

For the first few miles, while the road we were on paralleled the freeway, we were fine. But, at about the five mile mark, that surface street ended and we could either turn toward the freeway or away from it. The GPS sent us away. After about a mile or so, we realized that the GPS was trying to send us by the most circuitous route it could find, one that would take us miles out of our way while, granted, avoiding the freeway. Since we had passed the traffic tie-up several miles before, and the 101 was now flowing smoothly, we decided to ignore the gentle, soothing, feminine voice of the GPS system and take the freeway the rest of the way home. Since the system was still new to me and I didn't want to be distracted while driving, I didn't bother to reprogram the GPS to allow use of the freeway. And that was my mistake.

For the next ten miles, every time we approached a freeway exit, the GPS would direct us to get off, so it could guide us along surface streets, and at every exit, we would ignore it. At first, the soothing voice would dutifully announce, "Recalculating route," each time we bypassed an offramp and then offer us a new alternative, but as exit after exit sped by and we continued to ignore her instructions, I'd swear an impatient edge slowly crept into her voice, and under the engine's constant hum, I could hear muttering. "Stupid...disrespectful...I work so hard and what do I get in return...?"

Finally, we reached our regular exit, got off the freeway, and allowed the GPS to direct us the rest of the way home. We pulled into the driveway, Chris got out of the car, and I reached over to turn off the GPS. But as I did, I would swear I heard it whisper, "My name is Talky Tina...and I don't like you."

I'm probably wrong, of course, but just to be safe, I think I'll be taking the bus for the next few weeks.


kathy said...

At least you're not using UK software. I've got a Holux GPS hockey-puck-thingie that bluetooth talks to my Palm which runs TomTom's Navigator. It took me a while to figure out that it was telling me to take freeway (excuse motorway) off-ramps only to take freeway on-ramps, because it thought of them (fondly and with some nostalgia, one imagines) as roundabouts.

OTOH, I can pay a few bucks, and have John Cleese's voice yelling at me from the GPS.

Kurt Busiek said...

The Magellan GPS system is great. We call ours "Mrs. Muir."

I actually like ignoring it, since it so patiently will find us another route from anywhere we happen to be.

I've been talking these things up since I first encountered one in a Hertz rental car years ago. What a wonderful invention.

[chekov]Yes, we Russians are wery proud of it.[/chekov]


Mike Everleth said...

We got a Garmin thingee a couple months back and, yeah, ya gotta learn the little thing's peculiar quirks. A big help it turns out is shutting the thing off when it's stuck in a "I SAID TAKE THE 101, YOU IDIOT!!" loop and then turning it back on. It just needs a little nap every once in awhile, I guess...

Why I'm really writing tho' is that I was told that sticking a GPS to your windshield is against the law in California, so we got a dash mount for ours. I'm not 100% sure that that's really a law (nothing is supposed to stick to your windshield except bugs on the outside), but you might want to look into it.

And I have a question for Mr. Luddite: Ok, you have a GPS, but do you have a DVR for your TV? If not, that's your new purchase.

Len Wein said...

Actually, I've got two DVRs, one in my living room, one in my office, both capable of recording two shows at a time. The tragedy is, there are still certain times during the week when that isn't enough.

I definitely watch too much TV.

Len Wein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Everleth said...

The DVR is definitely one of the most evil inventions in history. Mine's loaded up with poker shows and movies I keep saying I'll get to. I don't know what I'd do without the dang thing.