Life As We Know It: June 10, 2013

       It was about three years ago that Madge came into my life. Initially, it was love at first sight. She knew how to push my buttons, and I quickly figured out how to push hers. And the best part? My wife had no objections.

        Madge, lest you get the wrong idea, is the name we gave the woman who lives inside the Global Positioning Satellite receiver on the dashboard of our car. Madge is short for Magellan, our particular brand of GPS, although I imagine she’s pretty much generic for all these devices.

        Early on, Madge and I got along fine. I told her where I wanted to end up and she told me where to go. It seemed like a reasonable arrangement, one with which I already had some familiarity.

        Over time, however, I’ve come to realize that Madge can be fickle, cynical, overbearing, and rude.

When GPS first came out, I remember thinking, “this is pure genius. I sure hope somebody somewhere got a nice raise.” It was an instant must-have for people like my wife and me. We’ve always found basic highway maps relatively useless.

        She can’t read ’em. I can’t fold ’em.

        So it was inevitable that we’d acquire a GPS. What I hadn’t counted on was a nagging dashboard driver.

Initially, the options Madge offered seemed to cover every driving situation. I could choose “Fastest Time,” “Most Use of Freeways,” “Least Use of Freeways,” and “Shortest Distance.”

        I’d punch in the address of our destination and choose a routing option, Madge would link up to the unseen eye in the sky, and we were off.

        Oh, life was good in those early months. She’d tell me what the next maneuver would be and when I’d have to make it. She gave me an estimate – to-the-minute – of when we’d arrive at our destination.

And at night? Wow, she would light up when it was time to go somewhere after dark. She absolutely glowed. I was infatuated.

But I have to tell you – and you know how much this hurts because I hate clichés – the bloom is off the rose, folks.

Lately it seems no matter what I do, I can’t please Madge. God forbid I should exit the interstate for a potty stop or a tank of gas contrary to her grand plan.

        “As soon as possible,” she mutters with mild annoyance, “make a legal U-turn.” U-turns of any kind, legal or otherwise, are not in my nature.

        “Trust me, Madge,” I say. “This is important. Do you wanna be parked somewhere out there in God’s great asphalt jungle, with snakes and rats and probably even alligators lurking in the ditch, while we wait for Triple-A to bring a gas can?”

        If I persist with my impertinence, her tone stiffens. “Recalculating route,” she says, her voice rising indignantly on the “recalculating” part and falling in resignation, through gritted teeth, on the “route” part.

        I’m surprised Madge isn’t programmed to let her frustrations out completely: “Why don’t you just admit it, Buster? You’re lost! You never listen to me!”

        And then there are those arbitrary routing options. I’ve discovered that when Madge offers a route making the “least use of freeways,” she really pretty much means “no use of freeways.”

        That’s fine on a run to Fostoria, but if we’re off to visit family in Alabama, I’m going to need to see an interstate every now and then.

        Sometimes Madge just goes wacko on me. I remember punching in “home” once, expecting to see directions to our house. Didn’t happen. I’m sure Caribou, Maine, is a nice place, but we don’t know a soul there.

On the other hand, if the day ever comes that we do need to find Caribou with the least use of freeways, Madge is ready to lock and load. Of course it’ll take us six weeks. A Conestoga wagon would be quicker.

A friend of mine says he has no issues with his little GPS buddy, who has the distinctive and elegant voice of a British gentleman.

Great. He’d probably tell me to drive on the left.