Technology is fantastic. In a matter of seconds, we can find out how to unclog a sink, build a house and power wash an elephant.
One of the best technology advances is Google Maps. With a few clicks, we can find our way to the most out-of-the-way places without getting lost or frustrated.
There are times, however, I miss getting verbal directions from a person, especially Southerners.
Former Fort Bend Herald editor Bob Haenel always gave me accurate, country-slanted, directions.
When I first started the job, I had an interview in Needville. I’d never been there, so I asked Bob how to get to this particular address.
He told me to head south on Highway 36 until I saw the Needville city limits sign.
“Then turn left at the light,” he said.
“Which light?” I asked.
“The light,” he replied.
Here’s another Haenel direction. I asked him for how to get to a place out in the country, and he thought for a second.
He grabbed a piece of paper and started sketching out a map. As he drew, he told me stories about the houses and people I’d pass on the way.
Google Maps will send me past stores that sponsor the site, but nothing can compete with directions that are complete with family and town histories.
My husband and I speak two different languages when it comes to directions. He uses words like “north and south, eastern corner and parallel.” I use phrases like “across from the grocery store, next to that car dealership and the place with the ugly paint job.”
Right after my dad passed away, I was driving to College Station with my youngest son. I was lost in sadness and suddenly realized I didn’t know where I was. My husband was out in the woods, but I called him anyway.
“I’m lost and I need you to tell me where I am,” I said. Even now, I’m embarrassed that I expected him to know where I was a hundred miles away from him.
He must’ve sensed how upset I was because he calmly asked me to describe what I was seeing and the turns I’d made.
“Just keep driving because I think you’re on the right road,” he said. “I won’t hang up until you see a sign.”
In a couple of miles, I saw the sign for College Station and breathed a sigh of relief. There’s no way Google Maps is that understanding.
Years ago, my son bought me one of the first GPS devices manufactured, a TomTom GPS. That little invention was great until I’d decide to take a different route.
“Recalculating route,” Tom would state in that robot voice.
I’d keep driving, unable to turn it off, and Tom would repeat “recalculating.” After the third time of recalculating, I swear I heard him sigh.
Ole Tom went a little too far one time, and I threw him in the trunk so I wouldn’t have to hear him yelling “recalculating.”
Luckily, the new GPS apps reroute without giving you the obnoxious reminder that you turned the wrong way. They seem to understand you’ve changed your mind and are polite enough not to point out you’re not following the correct directions.
I’m still a bit skeptical about the GPS. Last month, I was going to a retiree dinner in north Houston, and Google Maps sent me an hour out of the way. I didn’t feel stupid as two other people said Google had done the same thing to them.
Every once in a while, I’ll get out a paper map so I can keep my map reading skills sharp. I figure it’s a lost art, much like churning butter.
There’s a feeling of power knowing where I’m going because I figured out how to get there.