Dorothy Harris

GPS isn't enough to find your way

"I am so going to use that," I insisted, forgetting to ask for permission rather than simply asserting my intentions. "Oh, it's okay," she said, waving off my concerns. A kindred spirit, she understands my dilemma.

Out of town with my daughter, I discovered something that will definitely make me look like a ditz if I haven't already managed to clearly reveal this in prior column. Here's my big epiphany. A GPS unit is only going to work if you manage the settings properly.

Okay, so this isn't a major educational moment for most, but while I may be intelligent in some matters, I have no natural sense of direction. I mean it. If I can't figure out where U.S. 27 is, the whole north and south thing is unattainable to me. Please don't tell me I can learn this, because embarrassingly, I have tried. I have done orienteering, biological monitoring and all sorts of activities that should make this as natural as knowing where the sun rises and sets. When I really needed to know this information, I wore a compass. Nowadays, I don't need to worry about finding my way out of the woods, only whether I can find my way to dinner eventually. Thus I return to the conversation which inspired this week's column.

"I figured out why I kept getting directed through neighborhoods and back roads," I shared, revealing why it took nearly two hours to arrive at a restaurant others found in about 15 minutes. "My GPS unit was set for no toll roads." It also explained why we drove through the airport, twice, and still I couldn't find my way, despite three teenage girls and another mom reading signage and offering advice.

The day after our two-hour commute to dinner, I was still getting lost and finally had to rely on my daughter reading directions from my IPhone map app. She learned something in the process though, other than her mom can't drive her way out of a paper bag. This was good, the learning, not the paper bag part. My epiphany came when finally, in a fit of frustration witnessed only by my child, thank goodness, I sat in a parking lot, determined to figure out how this stupid piece of equipment was going to get me home. It seemed hopeless for a few moments, but then the "aha moment" dawned when I discovered the settings screen on the unit.

You're probably realizing it wasn't the GPS that was stupid, but as usual, the equipment remains only as good as the operator. Apparently my GPS was set for no toll roads and a bunch of other things ensuring a gal with no natural ability to navigate would be hopelessly lost, if not forever, then pretty darn close to it. After adjusting the settings, the blessed map pulled right up and the rest of my journey was effortless.

Thus our dinner conversation this evening was filled with laughter and exasperation over the whole hour and a half journey through the airport, desperate to find Carrabba's. We did find one, but not the right one. Then again, I wasn't the only one who had gotten lost and my car didn't get searched.

As we recalled this crazy evening, someone mentioned about the need to update the GPS on a regular basis. "Now how the heck do I do that," I inquired. "Well," she continued as we all leaned in for this transfer of knowledge, "You plug it into your computer and then call your husband." It made perfect sense to me.