GPS Devices: Who is Really in Charge?

0
Cheryl Hodges
Cheryl Hodges
Cheryl Hodges

Something is happening with the techno-gadgets in our lives.  Is it that art imitates life or the other way around, but the Terminator and Matrix movies may not be that far off. Did the changing of the guard at the White House start something? Perhaps in the excitement of all the hope and change there really was a new phenomenon – a spark of life emitted from all this energy that gave the President’s teleprompter a mind of its own. Lots of people are talking about it. It has caused the President to say things he never intended and certainly not in the order he intended. I wonder if it gets to travel on Air Force One? You can bet there is a cadre of personnel in charge of keeping that teleprompter comfortable and in tip-top shape at all times. It probably has one of those catchy secret government nicknames all its own, like Big Bro for example.

Once these gadgets get the life-spark, there’s going to be trouble. We have a GPS that I’m pretty sure has such a life force even though “she” hides it whenever possible. We named her “Myrtle” just so she didn’t have the same name as everyone else’s, which is almost always “Betty.” Just for fun, somebody needs to do a survey of the top 10 names given to GPS devices, but I’m confident “Betty” is Number One.

On a recent trip bringing a son home from college with no less than one van and one car full of belongings, I was designated as the follower since my son had the GPS in his car. Never mind that we have driven this route numerous times flawlessly before we ever owned a GPS; this is the new modus operendi. The cool factor in full play, I deferentially let him feel important. Fortunately, we had no trouble “arriving at destination.”

However, this is not always the case. Personally, I have found this device to be extremely stressful. Half the time it is determined to take you the long way or through questionable areas.  Routes you previously took for granted become tangled highways with confusing road signs. WHY is “Myrtle” directing me off my familiar path?  Has something changed?  Should I go HER way or the one I know? What used to be a leisurely drive becomes a jaw-clenching, palm-soaking experience.  Detours are not part of the programming so you can be heading to West Texas instead of Michigan in no time, which potentially makes every SINGLE second in your vehicle a pending disaster.

One middle-aged friend told us he had no idea why late one night their GPS took them right up to water’s edge. Did it want them to drown? Was this the beginning of the techno-gadgets’ take-over of humanity?  We got our tuition plan money’s worth when our freshly graduated William and Mary student chuckled and pointed out that “oh, you needed to take it off ‘ferry mode.’” FERRY MODE??  He also suggested that just for fun, we let Myrtle “go British,” as in give her a British accent. He confirmed my worst fears; this is not a limited gadget take-over, it’s going to be an international one.

Take for example, the suicide jumper in south China, as reported just this past week. Here was this poor distraught fellow, Chen Fuchao, apparently in debt and suicidal. He perched on a bridge for five long hours contemplating a jump. Traffic had been backed up for all this time as police had cordoned off the area. What appeared to be a good Samaritan approached Chen to comfort him and shake his hand, but instead he pushed him off the bridge! His explanation was that he was sick and tired of Chen’s “selfish” behavior, and just wanted to see traffic get moving again.

I know what really happened. This guy had a GPS that got frustrated at the standstill. It couldn’t give directions in stopped traffic so it figured out a way to deal with the situation and directed its driver to get rid of the ostensible human barricade. It probably communicated with other GPS’s in the area and they all decided enough was enough. Chen luckily survived.

There is a glimmer of hope that humanity will survive in spite of its ignorance of this growing threat.  Sunspot activity is predicted to be very high in the coming year. Warnings are beginning to be discussed of possible disruptions in the power grid which will affect things like cell phones, and…GPS devices. What common sense may not address, sunspots could.

And if for some reason the sunspots don’t come through, you can guess what I am NOT recommending you get your dad for Father’s Day this year!