Skip to content

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and you will receive our stories in your inbox.

Revenge of the Humans

Posted in Style & Travel

navigation apps
Not so friendly looking when you are sitting in the middle of a freeway

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.

The Waze monster

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.

Share on Facebook

10 Comments

  1. I am laughing very loudly right now even though my laughter is tinged with some embarassment. I managed to get lost in my own little town (pop 50 000) whilst power walking through the corn fields. Lost sight of the church steeple and had to call for help.

    October 25, 2012
    |Reply
    • If we are ever on a roadtrip together, let’s then defer driving decisions to sofagirl. Sometimes I wonder how she and I ever got out of the Mexican jungle, with me deciphering the map….

      October 25, 2012
      |Reply
  2. silvia
    silvia

    you see you described perfectly what I think of humns relying too much on technology eventhough I must confess that the waze monster is really cute

    October 25, 2012
    |Reply
  3. When I went to Amalfi a couple years ago we kept getting lost – despite the very clear instructions we had given to the Tomtom. I realised after a couple days that the machine was resetting itself every time we went through a series of switchback bends – it thought each bend was a turn and that we were disobeying instructions. On the other hand – driving with certain members of my family can be challenging too, as it often results in a similar situation. Impatience and a sense of knowing everything overrides the map instructions – and we end up ‘off piste’. Ask sofabrother when you see him.

    October 24, 2012
    |Reply
  4. Poor you!
    My husband works for TomTom so I’m not entirely unbiased, but you may want to check out getting a TomTom app or TomTom device. I don’t have experience in LA, but it has certainly replaced my non-existing sense of direction quite reliably over last several years. Also in complicated cities trafficwise like Paris. It is not free, but it also doesn’t require an expensive data connection.

    October 24, 2012
    |Reply
    • You are probably right. I am becoming cheap in this age of free apps everywhere you turn. But you get what you paid for!

      October 24, 2012
      |Reply
  5. I feel better now, knowing you can still get lost even with the latest technology. I still use the old fashioned technique: a roadmap. However, I do google directions before I leave the house and I do write down the directions on a post-it note and place it on my car “mini paper clipboard” that is attached to my windshield. Even google makes mistakes! So, I don’t have trouble getting to a place, but for some reason, turning around and going back home again is difficult for me!

    October 23, 2012
    |Reply
    • I used to have the paper clipboard too! With all these sticky notes saying turn right, turn left etc etc. Thought I would propel myself into the digital age….still getting lost. Sometimes, though, it can be a pleasant experience. I discovered many unexpected places by not having a clue where I was!

      October 24, 2012
      |Reply
      • I wish I could say the same. When I was thinking about moving to Indy, (I was living in Evansville 3 1/2 hrs south), I would come up on the weekends and scour the apts looking for decent housing. I got lost a couple of times. One time I ended up in a bad neighborhood. I was so tired from lack of sleep that I couldn’t even read my map! I found a TV station and brought my map and asked the receptionist to help me find a road back to a place I was familiar. It turned out that the road back was a left turn from their door! I was soooo close and didn’t know it. Another time I took a wrong turn and was in a posh neighborhood driving around trying to figure where I went wrong. A police car pulled me over to ask me what I was doing! He said the apt complex I was looking for was not a good area for me and my son! So, since it was late, I started driving back home. On the way, I saw an apt complex that looked nice. I went in, and it was perfect! Even though I’ve lived in my house for 15 years, I sometimes regret that I ever left that apt complex! Especially on days like today when my lawnmower quit!

        October 26, 2012
        |Reply

Got some thoughts? We would love to hear what you think

%d bloggers like this: