Why The GPS Needs A GPS

Photo By: Alpiyon

When you're traveling on business, a GPS can be your best friend. Or your worst enemy.

How often does your GPS steer you wrong? The devices have been hot sellers, making Garmin and Magellan and Tom Tom millions of dollars.

I have a factory installed GPS in my car, which is fine, except it won't let me engage it while driving (which is when I suddenly need it), and I haven't figured out how to stop it from speaking to me in kilometers. When I travel, I usually rent from Hertz and ask for a Never Lost. I've renamed it the Often Lost, because of all the right turns I've made into dead end streets. And yet, I won't give up on the thing. I just KNOW the GPS knows more than I do, despite my own decades of driving around America's major cities.

(Once, in Aspen, my producer insisted on putting an address down the street into his Magellan. The cameraman turned to us and said, "How about we go old school and look at the street signs?" By the time the producer had the address typed in and located, the cameraman had already arrived at the location.)

Tell me if the following story sounds familiar. It's a "trip log" from my exasperated friend, Cherie P., who used the GPS last week to navigate from USC to a meeting at a Hampton Suites in the San Bernardino enclave of Highland, about 70 miles away (I've removed some of the "screaming" in ALL CAPS and cleaned up some of the bluer language--but you'll get the picture). She prefers that I not name the manufacturer:

1:15 (Leaving USC on the 10 freeway), GPS tells me to take the 60 instead of the 10.

1:20 Now I'm on the 60, and the GPS says next to take the 605 to the 10. WTF?? I was ON the 10...I couldn't have just stayed on the 10? It told me to take the 10 to 60 to 605 to 10?

1:40 Made the transition to the 605, no prob. Phew!

1:52 Successfully transitioned to the 10 east.

2:15ish Caught by surprise by suddenly appearing 15. Apparently cut in close to a white truck, p*@sed him off. I feel bad. Wave weakly/apologetically. He hates me.

2:16 GPS says I am off route! I ask it to recalculate and it says, "Fine, if you MUST drive on the 15, take it to the 210 east."

2:30 GPS suddenly goes insane and says I am no longer on a digitized road.

2:31 Great; it won't even let me see the directions any more; it only displays the map showing where I am.

2:32 I see an exit for Highland Ave. My hotel is on Highland Ave. I must be close! I exit the 210. GPS upbraids me. I ignore GPS and begin driving on Highland Ave, thinking I recollect that I only had a mile or two left in my journey according to GPS before the satellite lost track of a major freeway just outside the major city of Los Angeles, California.

2:33 GPS snottily tells me I'm off route. Oh, NOW it recognizes the area? Fine. I tell it to recalculate. Now it says I still have 10 miles to go! That can't be right. But it tells me to drive to Highway 30, so I obey. Says I should turn left in 400 feet onto the 30. Thank God I'm close to getting back on route.

2:34 I drive under some freeway or highway and the GPS says, TURN LEFT NOW. But there's no street there. I drive another 1/4 mile while it silently yells at me that I missed the 30 and I should turn around.

2:35 I decide I will never again believe the GPS. (But we both know I'm a liar. I always come back for more. I'm a sucker for that GPS..)

2:37 I start back driving west on Highland Avenue, wondering if perhaps it was the 30 (or the 210) I had driven under. Yup, there is no way to get onto that freeway unless my car is willing to levitate 40 feet into the air. I see a sign for the 210 west and decide to drive back to the Bermuda Triangle where the 210 ceased to be a digitized road.

2:38 Boy, the GPS is beside itself by now. It's sh@#*ing its pants. Keeps insisting I must return to the location where the 30 hovers a tantalizing 40 feet just over my head. Temptation, thy acronym is GPS.

2:40 I locate the elusive 210 and launch myself eastward. Suddenly the GPS calms down and congratulates me for coming to my senses.

2:41 Hey, look down there! See that road? Yeah, that's where GPS told me I could get on the 30! Uh huh, up here 40 feet in the air! Boy, that silly, silly GPS. It's always pulling my leg. I love it so.

2:42 At this point I almost don't care any more. What's the worst that can happen? I never find Highland (or is it Brigadoon? Hmmm... both Scottish names... neither one known to modern cartographers... I decide to keep an eye out for Gene Kelly and Van Johnson on a quail hunting expedition.)

2:48 Transitioned to the 330 and, half a mile later, saw an exit for Highland Avenue. Oh, and looky here: There's a Hampton Suites just west of the freeway, right at the exit!

2:49 Exit the freeway, turn left, approach Hampton Suites. Waitaminute. What's this you say, fair GPS? I've gone the wrong way on Highland Ave. Really?

2:50 I continue on my own, having thrown GPS out the window. Uh oh -- there's no driveway in to the hotel off of Highland...plus the GPS previously averred that the hotel is actually half a mile EAST on Highland. But you know the saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Try to fool me a tenth time, now you're just calling me a *#@¤! idiot.

2:51 I give in to the doubt, make a U turn at Boulder, reach out the window, scoop up GPS and drive back over the fwy. I drive for 1/2 mile and find... a deserted American Legion lodge. And nothing else. When will I learn?

2:52 Make a U turn (sigh) and go back. Turn left on Boulder. Yes, there's the entrance to the hotel...I guess it's not a digitized hotel.

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