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MANDY FLYNN: You have arrived eventually

FEATURES COLUMN: even GPS devices can be directionally challenged

Mandy Flynn

Mandy Flynn

Quite frankly, I understand.

A few years ago there was a woman from Belgium who lived in Belgium and was trying to get to Brussels, also in Belgium. (No, this is not bad joke. True story. Stick with me.)

Brussels was only 90 miles away from her hometown, to the north, which should have taken her two, maybe a little over two, hours to get there, depending on how fast (or how pokey) she drove. Only, the 67-year-old woman drove for two days and hundreds of miles and still hadn’t reached her destination. She even slept in her car during the journey. Not noticing a thing, she ended up all the way in Croatia.

Her explanation?

She was following a GPS.

According to just about everything you read these days, one should never totally, completely trust a GPS over your own instincts. Even I – the most directionally challenged individual since the lady from Belgium – knew during a recent trip to North Carolina that the dead-end dirt road at an industrial park was not the right way to the Interstate, as the GPS was trying to send me. And, if you come from the smart aleck school of “the GPS is only as smart as the person who plugs in the address to begin with,” you can rest assured that I had the correct address in. Thank you very much.

Okay, so maybe that’s only because my 16-year-old daughter put it in, but that’s beside the point.

The point is, you can’t always trust your GPS. It doesn’t know everything.

“Are you sure she knows what she’s talking about?” I asked for the upteenth time on our recent trip home from Washington, D.C. Where we were, I cannot recall – somewhere between our nation’s capital and South Carolina or Virginia. It was dark. We had left D.C. shortly after 5 p.m. and driven only 23 miles in over an hour. Our first clue that our GPS, a woman who I grew to not like very much over our five-day car trip, was not out for our best interests was that she wanted to take us on a sightseeing tour of downtown Washington during rush-hour traffic instead of the much shorter route to the Interstate. I hate her.

Hate is a strong word. She did get us home, eventually, safe and sound. For that, I am most grateful. But it was not without frustration. Why, oh, why, couldn’t she just let a family go to the bathroom without the third degree? When you turn off onto an unscheduled exit to take a little potty break, she gets all upset.

“Turn left. Make a U-turn.” Re-calculating. “Turn now! Go back!”

I propose a little button on her panel to calm her down – a potty break button, if you will. Then, instead of getting all ruffled she might offer such advice as, “Don’t sit on the seat,” or “Don’t forget to wash your hands.”

While we’re suggesting things she could say, what about an occasional, “You’re still going in the right direction. Don’t worry.” Or, “You deserve a Starbucks. There’s one a few miles up the road.”

It would be especially nice if she would know when to say, “You should really let your wife drive, you know,” and “You should listen to your wife. She’s very intelligent.”

On the right-hand side of our GPS, way down in the corner in tiny little numbers, it tells you the posted speed limit and how fast you’re going. If you’re going too fast, your speed limit number is in red.

If only our GPS could have told him, “Slow down, buddy, or you’ll be sorry,” along that long stretch of Virginia highway. If only, as he slowly pulled away from the side of the roadway back onto the Interstate, she’d said, “I told you to slow down. You should let your wife drive.” If only …

We’d probably not have a GPS anymore. She’d be shattered all over the Virginia highway.

Quite frankly, I understand. Some things are better left unsaid. Understood … but unsaid.

Email columnist Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.