I have a love/hate relationship with my Garmin. I call her Carmen. Carmen the Garmin. She’s actually pretty great because my sense of direction is fairly pathetic. Honestly, I have gotten lost driving around a block. She helps a lot, but here’s my beef. Sometimes she is actually too good at her job. With all of her knowledge of “maps” and “roads” and “north” she gives me a false sense of security and I get dependent on her within minutes. I have used her to get home from the store, which is absurd if you know where I live. “Turn right on Rittenhouse, drive 4 blocks to destination.”
Recently, when driving in the Twin Cities, which is fairly stressful for me to begin with, (city driving makes me nuts) Carmen says, in her clipped and serious tone, “Drive 3.2 miles; take a left on exit 3A Excelsior South.”
“That’s easy” I think to myself. “3A – I can do that. I can totally find 3A – wait, it was 3A right?”
“Carmen, was it 3A or 3B?” Sadly, she doesn’t answer. (Remember when we used to actually write directions down on paper? That would be handy right about now, but no, I have a Garmin.)
I tap her screen a few times, trying not to swerve, and she repeats, “Drive 3.2 miles and take a left on exit 3A Excelsior South” but I swear to God, she sounds a little pissed off. There is definitely something in her voice. Now, I am getting a little overly sensitive about her tone, and I’m thinking “3.2, exit, 3A, Excelsior South. 3.2, exit, 3A, Excelsior South” and I’m starting to freak myself out a little. I’m not necessarily looking at the road the way I should be; all I’m doing is looking for 3A Excelsior South and waiting for her next instruction. I’m a people pleaser; I don’t want to disappoint Carmen. It would be awkward and weird if she were mad at me, because it’s just the two of us and it’s a long trip home.
I get closer to the ramp, but along with the ramp, there’s also an exit; it’s a complicated spot, made only worse by road construction. I get a little freaked out about the orders she is barking at me, “Turn right on exit” and I don’t know if I should take the exit or the ramp. At this point I’m at a loss to make my own decision. It’s as if I have no will of my own. Carmen is my leader. She has reduced me to a lemming. I can no longer think critically on my own or make any decision whatsoever. I don’t have the capacity to simply look up and see the exit for “Excelsior” next to the ramp for the turn around. (I hope to hell airline captains don’t feel like this once they pop off the auto-pilot.) A year ago, I would have had a paper napkin clutched in my fist, and scribbled on it “L – Excelsior” and I would have been fine. That would have been all I needed, but now, I am incapable of making a decision. Exit or ramp? Exit or ramp?
“Turn right…” she barks. “Turn right!!! (sigh) Recalculating…”
I have never driven down the wrong side of a street in my life; however, after purchasing my Garmin, I have done it twice in a year. A few months ago I was in Madison and Carmen said, “turn right” so of course I immediately turned right and somehow I managed to end up in an oncoming, left-only turn lane and a soccer mom who looked at me, (from behind the wheel of the mini-van I am now blocking) as if I started Armageddon. Her jaw dropped in amazement at the very same moment her middle finger went up.
I think it would be better if Garmins were designed to be a little more user-friendly and not so dictatorial in their tone. For example, rather than, “Drive 3.2 miles and take a right on Excelsior exit 3A” we would hear, “Hey, up here, you want to take Excelsior.” That’s how a friend would give directions, right? It would be so much more relaxed! And as you get closer, Carmen would remind, “Yeah, I think it’s up here on the left.” And instead of, “recalculating” when you missed it (because of course you missed it, because you have been reduced to a kool-aid drinking drone at this point, freaking out because you have to take a right and you don’t know which right you should take) she could say, “Hey, dude, you missed it, but it’s cool. Just take the next exit, I think it’s 36. No worries.”
But no, you hear her cold, impersonal, “recalculating” all the while she’s probably thinking nasty things about you and your driving, not to mention how you let your daughter eat junk food during long car rides. Her silence speaks volumes. Carmen can be a real bitch. It’s gonna be a long drive home.