Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reginald the Navigator

Reginald the Navigator

Last Christmas I bought a GPS navigation system for my wife’s new car. She had wanting one of these for some time, claiming we always get lost on every trip. That could be debated. There is a difference between being lost and just taking the more scenic route.

The voice on our machine is male, so we named him Reginald. We soon found out that not only does Reginald have no sense of humor, but that we fear he will soon be a basket case due to his frustration with our inclination not to follow his directions. Do you suppose electronic devices can suffer a stroke?

Our first encounter with his frustration came on a trip from our home in Waynesville, in the mountains of North Carolina, to Chapel Hill. I had left Reginald on his default settings, so he assumed we should always take the Interstate Highways. Little could he know that in the past 22 years, we have made this same trip approximately 50 times. We know every thing there is to know about I-40 between here and Chapel Hill. To be very frank, we are just bored to death with this stretch of highway, and get off from it at every opportunity.

On this day, Reginald did just fine at first. As I backed out from the garage, I keyed in the addresses for my daughter in Chapel Hill. Reginald did great. He directed me through several twists and turns until he got me on I-40 at Exit 27. For the next hour or so, he was quiet as we buzzed east on I-40. At Statesville, some 130 miles into the trip, I ruined his day. By that time I was already bored with I-40, and decided to take the lesser byway. I exited and got on US 70, which took us through a part of Statesville I had not seen. Reginald almost went berserk! At every intersection he insisted I turn left, to return to his beloved I-40. I defiantly refused, determined to make my own path. From Statesville east, US 70 is parallel to I-40. At every opportunity, Reginald directed me to turn left and enter I-40. And at each command, I refused, as it was my intention to drive US 70 to Mocksville. There we stopped for lunch, hoping that poor Reginald could take this opportunity to rest and settle his nerves. Such was not to be the case.

As we continued on US 64, he was quiet. But, east of Lexington, he awoke with a vengeance! As we neared I-85 coming up from Charlotte, he insisted we get on it, with the idea of going 20 some miles out of our way to rejoin I-40 in Greensboro. I definitely refused again. A few miles further, we met another road going north, and again he insisted we take it. I was adamant! No deviations. On the west side of Asheboro, he had his last chance. US 220, going due north towards Greensboro, could take us back to I-40. I was steadfast. No unnecessary detours. I wonder if such devices really have a personality. I was sure I detected a note of total frustration and hysteria as he directed me to take the last possible way to return to I-40. I was afraid he was going to suffer a stroke.

Reginald was quiet as we traversed through Ramsuer, Siler City and east towards Pittsboro. But, as we approached Pittsboro, he woke up. Being the good fellow that he is, he found my current location (by some form of black magic) and was now resigned to take me to my destination, even if it was not the routing he preferred. He correctly directed me to exit onto US 15-501 north. Apparently he had given up on his plan to return me to I-40, and was now reconciled to the fact that I was not going to follow his earnest directions. As we approached Chapel Hill, he directed me through several turns, and took me to my daughter’s driveway. Stout fellow, even if we did not agree on the route!

The following day Reginald really proved his capabilities. I had a doctor’s appointment on the north side of Durham, in an area where I had never been. I had no idea how to find the office. I downloaded maps from Map Quest, but I know from experience that these are not always accurate. However, I decided that with the maps, and the help from Reginald, I could probably find the place. I did leave a little early just in case I had problems. As I pulled out of my daughter’s driveway, I keyed in the address for the Doctor. Reginald performed superbly! He directed me through several turns and some on and off ramps. When he announced, rather pompously, I thought, “You have arrived at your destination,” I was at the entrance to the parking lot.

How far have we come? Fifteen years ago, GPS were just coming on the market. Go back another thirty years, when I was riding a Navy destroyer, we sweated over star sights and loran for navigation. Now, anyone can have their own private navigator in a small electronic box that will fit in a shirt pocket. Will wonders never cease?

1 comment:

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