austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

I've never been there, but I know the way

When my parents bought the Toyota Something, they deliberately refused the dashboard navigation system. My mother's college friend -- we'll just say my aunt -- had one and was happy to bring it along. My father doubted my mother would ever follow its directions, and we had Mapquest instructions to use as backup. My aunt stuck the suction cup end of the gadget to the windshield and after some difficulties plugged in the power cord.

My mother was willing to follow the navigation gadget as long as it agreed with where she wanted to go. So she refused to follow it through New Jersey, although in Pennsylvania she decided to give it a try. The machine recommended turning off the Pennsylvania Turnpike or an equivalent road into county roads somewhere. And it suggested a great number of turns onto roads going in various twisty directions, all alike.

And then on a slender, low-speed two-lane county road in the middle of Generica Valley, Pennsylvania, the suction cup gave way and the navigation machine crashed to the floor. It announced, ``Recalculating.'' Brought back up to the windshield, it announced that it wanted to turn around, and lead us back to a modest but certifiable highway. It seems dropping the machine on its head is a way to get better directions. For the rest of the trip, it would occasionally proudly announce, ``There is a better route'', although it wouldn't deign to actually tell us what it was. Eventually we realized it was taking us to the route it initially charted even if that brought us through Pennsylvania's excessively many small towns and petty roads.

The verdicts: my aunt been on good working terms with it beforehand, and thinks the problems would have been avoided had we followed it from the start. My father was impressed the map actually showed things like intersecting roads, rail lines, and rivers that matched the real world. I liked it, particularly for the regional map surrounding the car. My mother is not a fan but loved when it fell down.

Trivia: In 1850 Norway exported 2,960 tons of ice to England. Source: The Frozen-Water Trade, Gavin Weightman.

Currently Reading: The Guns of August, Barbara W Tuchman.


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