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Examiner
  • Kay Hoflander: A complicated relationship with your GPS voice



  • “If you think Missouri isn’t beautiful, then you should take the drive Bonnie took me on last weekend”, my friend Paige said.



    Who is Bonnie, I wondered, thinking I’ve never heard Paige mention a Bonnie?

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  • “You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there” – Yogi Berra
    “If you think Missouri isn’t beautiful, then you should take the drive Bonnie took me on last weekend”, my friend Paige said.
    Who is Bonnie, I wondered, thinking I’ve never heard Paige mention a Bonnie?
    “She is my GPS,” Paige answered and added that somehow Bonnie knew exactly what she needed that day – a peaceful and serene drive through the beautiful landscape of Missouri back roads.
    “I was going from Kansas City to Jefferson City and Bonnie told me so confidently to turn off of I-70 onto Highway 87 and take that to Highway 179, that I did. It is as though she knew I needed my emotional batteries recharged with a picturesque drive in the country where I saw rolling hills, gorgeous flowering trees, green, green grass, cattle grazing in the valleys and charming farm houses and barns.”
    Paige continued, “How did she know that is exactly what I needed?” I think Paige meant that rhetorically, but I answered anyway.
    Well, I said, “She isn’t Suri, so you couldn’t ask her why, because, of course, one cannot have a two-way conversation with a GPS as one can with Suri.”
    We laughed, and Paige then explained more of her story: “Bonnie was patient, as though she was listening to me and intuitively taking me through a ‘road less traveled.’
    “Part way there, “ Paige added, “I stopped for coffee and water. She didn’t like it, as we know that no GPS wants us to veer off course or stop. I let her rant for a while because she probably needed to, and after all, she had not had a chance to say anything for a long time.”
    And thus, we have a perfect example of how we form relationships with our GPS, sometimes love and sometimes hate, or more likely annoyance and dependence.
    It’s the GPS racket that bothers my husband.
    When we drive out west, we take a shortcut because we know it goes directly to my brother’s house. Dominique, our GPS, does not know this and fusses at us incessantly with the familiar admonition “recalculating, recalculating.”
    Finally, after enough of this noise, my husband will ask me to turn down the volume. She annoys him, but because of the love-hate relationship many of us have with our GPS, he also misses her reassuring voice and wants to be sure he is on the right road. Dominique will know. Then he asks me to turn up the volume.
    I found an online story by Anna North about some interesting relationships people form with a GPS.
    Page 2 of 2 - She writes: “More than one dude has fallen in love with the female voice on his GPS unit. She’s so trustworthy, so calm and reliable.”
    North gives an example of such a case. Bruce Feiler of the New York Times wrote that he had “fallen for my GPS voice,” and says he knows several guys who have developed a crush on the disembodied voice that tells them where to turn. Wives and girlfriends might be lifting an eyebrow at that one as we speak.
    Additionally, we know that couples often argue about whether to take the GPS lady’s directions or not because she is not always accurate.
    I have met business travelers who say they would never leave home without her, knowing that she has saved them at the last minute when they were late for a meeting. However, she has also sent them down tangled dirt roads to the hinterlands.  
    Even though that soothing voice is almost human, we begin to wonder at times if my Dominique and Paige’s Bonnie are simply ignorant, out of touch or behind the times.
    Sometimes they simply cannot find the shortest, fastest route. Goodness, it can be maddening.  
    Although we may love and hate our Global Positioning System and its voice, we must admit that these units, similar to any other technological device, are indispensable.
    The problem is that the minute the devices leave the factory, the maps are outdated.
    A business traveler’s guide I found gives a solution: there is always the old-fashioned way if one is lost. Ask a local, and switch off your GPS, just so she knows who is boss.
    But somehow, I don’t think my Dominique would approve.
    Think of it this way. If your GPS lady had a Facebook page, she would have to say on the profile page under “relationship” – it’s complicated.

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