Let me preface this by saying that I have become addicted to apps. Not crazy addicted but I can be spotted holding my i-pad to the night sky to check out constellations, I haven’t called a restaurant in years to make a reservation, I pull up recipes on the go without having to open a browser and, when I don’t feel like leaving the house, I have a convenient yoga app that will guide me through a number of classes. My magazine subscriptions are neatly organized under all their apps, never again cluttering the kitchen. As I see it, I am availing myself of all the good technology has to offer.
In my case, the biggest invention of all is the navigation app. Having been born with no sense of direction whatsoever, googlemaps has changed my life and greatly impaired my art of getting lost. Left to my own devices, it would take me twice as long to get to any new destination, pulling on the side of the road to consult my trusted Thomas Guide of old, jumping from page to page to map my route.
This morning I had to drive to Alhambra for some sleuthing business and, as I cannot navigate anywhere east of downtown LA, and suitably warned by the media that relying on my new Apple maps would have sent me to Death Valley, I neatly wrote down googlemaps directions on a piece of paper and, in a fit of inspiration, downloaded Waze on my phone. It came recommended by many friends, mostly young, as the newest weapon to beat traffic and get anywhere with vocal, turn by turn, commands. The little fatty Wazy monster, with its bright face and tiny tail, gave me a sense of reassurance. I input my destination address and off I went.
Alhambra, despite the evocative moorish name, is a nondescript town south of Pasadena which might have possessed some charm at its inception but it’s now a haven of that ubiquitous Californian mini-mall, Asian businesses and restaurants, and triple digit temperatures in the Summer (and in October, as it so happened today).
For anyone unfamiliar with the Los Angeles freeway systems, let me assure you that it can be as daunting as you imagine it to be. Freeways that suddenly split, either left or right, but always on the opposite side of where you happen to be, forests of signs indicating multiple numbers, directions and cities which require fast decisions at 80 miles an hour and the worst maze is east of downtown. Getting off to get your bearings does not guarantee that the entrance to get back on will be anywhere near where you left off. Now you understand my need for Waze.
It all started serenely enough. A pleasant voice was guiding me left or right, alerting me of traffic ahead or work crews; I was dutifully impressed. The little white monster left me a bit perplexed when it failed to let me know I should have entered I-10 but, considering that it was an extension of the road I was on, I took it as my common sense needing to take over. I knew I was in trouble when the pleasant voice asked me to get on a freeway I had the distinct sensation was the wrong one but, as my instincts fail me more often than not, I obliged. It was then that the image on my phone started going crazy, little bubbles telling me that my route was being recalculated and that, I kid you not, it could not do so. Waze was lost. I pressed the Go button again (pretending to the be a passenger as the app won’t let you interact while driving) and, again, the little white monster, not so reassuring anymore, told me it couldn’t help me.
Are you @$%^& kidding me? I looked up to find out I was in the depths of South Central and, while getting off at South Central in the middle of the day will probably not spark a Bonfire of the Vanities situation, I decided to call a human, with access to a computer, to put me back on track. The human, full knowing the range of my orientation inability, laughed and obliged. Meanwhile, the scribbled googlemaps directions were 90% correct: they had the right freeway in the wrong direction.
When I finally reached my destination, after a long and lorry crowded detour, I felt more inept than usual. For all our reliance on technology, in case of trouble, it’s still human ingenuity that comes up trumps. Next time, though, I am packing a compass.