I Hate GPS

March 11, 2012

It's very possible that I hate GPS's. They might be one more step along the path to a land that David Foster Wallace envisioned in his novel Infinite Jest, a world in which we are so separated from each other that something happening – a car crash or anything – is a big deal because it creates an opportunity for people to come into actual contact with each other. I should clarify here, for anybody who does not know me personally, that there's the tiniest possibility that I'm bitter and/or jaded. But, I feel that this argument has some valid points.

Why do people like GPS? There could be a few reasons.

So they don't get lost. Wrong. Ask any female in Nameless's family and they'll be an example of how this is not, indeed, true. They still get lost and people still wonder how they could leave the city and enter another one and it never occur to them that they've gone the wrong direction when they were only supposed to cross the highway in the first place.

So that you don't have to stop to ask for directions. All I can say is that this is one more step down the isolationist path that never leads this country to a better place. You can site horror stories of coming across ugly, hateful, racist even psychopathically homicidal people when stopping at a gas station to ask for directions and I'll match them one for one with my own lived experiences asking complete strangers for help.

So that you can take road trips more easily. I actually enjoy looking at a map and planning out the route. I've heard stories of GPS systems taking people in circles and then those people being kind of screwed because they were relying on the GPS which was clearly letting them down. But I'll also be the first to admit that technology can improve, especially when there's enough demand for it. But, you miss the fun of looking at a map (which for me is fun in and of itself), seeing what towns you're going to be going through and just basically building the anticipation of the trip. (The introduction to this blog expresses my opinion of instant and total gratification using another example.)

I have had friends say that they were going to come over. I've tried to give them directions, but they won't listen. They'll only tell me to give them my address so that they can plug it into their GPS. This is where I get offended slightly. I cannot help but feel slighted that the piece of technology is allowed to speak and I, their supposed friend, am not. My address as I know it does not work in GPS systems. One time I figured out how to put it in so that it would recognize it, but even then the guy got lost because he turned the wrong direction and went into a high school instead of onto my street, which doesn't say a lot for the people I call friends, except that I don't call him friend, nor have I spoken to him again since – for different reasons.

So, Friday my oldest friend announced that she was coming to see me the next day (yesterday). She used the pronoun 'we' so I had to assume that she was bringing her boy toy. She's 44 and he's 25 and he is the most self–absorbed human being I have ever encountered. When he walked into my home the first words out of his mouth were "What is your wifi?" while he was looking at his iPhone. Not looking at me. No hi, no good to see you, not even a glace in my direction. Again, this has less to do with GPS than it has to do with the people I associate with. But, before they arrived I had called them to see how far along the road from San Antonio to Austin they were. I called my friend's phone, but he answered it and said (not 'Hello'), "Real quick, what's your address so I can put it in my GPS". Well, I had already sent them the Very Easy Directions to my apartment and I was in no mood to fight with a technology, so I told him that my address didn't work in those things, that I had already tried it with several friends and it never works. He was crestfallen, but still didn't say hello. I did manage to get my way, though (to be allowed to talk to my friend.). I asked him a really complicated question and he had to put my friend on the phone. (I asked them where they were.)

I know that this is much like anything else. People who are inconsiderate will use this as another tool for that end and people who are considerate will still be so. Also, if somebody is going to pay more attention to a technology than to me, then perhaps I'm just as well off if they can't find their way here. I actually have a friend who refused to come over because I couldn’t' give him an address that would work in his GPS. And, I have another friend who relies heavily on her GPS around town, and she gladly let me give her directions to my apartment, which is good because even when they get the directions to work in the GPS they generally end up lost anyway.

So, if I have a point it's that you should appreciate your friends more than your technologies. But, that has more or less the same problem as parenting books. The people who read them are not the people who probably need to read them.

Now, since we've arbitrarily decided to lie to ourselves about the time it's suddenly 11:30 pm and I'd better get to bed so that I can be up and at work at the new 8 am tomorrow.

Good night.