My dad is genetically programmed to never ask for directions. Ever. To anywhere. And unfortunately for dad, he’s not exactly a Magellan, either–which means that my sisters and I spent years of our childhood on Dad’s drives.
Dad’s drives went like this. On Sunday, after mass, we all got into the car and Dad would pull out and just pick a direction—any direction—and drive for hours. He called it “exploring.” We called it “getting lost and refusing to stop and ask for directions.” After a few hours of nonstop “exploration,” Dad would need to get gas and Mom would sneak out, consult a map and get us back home in time for school on Monday.
So it was kind of a surprise when we were visiting my parents and Dad took Harry, Junior, Mom and I out for one of his drives and a woman’s voice suddenly started telling Dad were to go. And that woman wasn’t my mom.
In fact, it was a little device called a GPS. Dad’s GPS is pretty cool. It can take you anywhere in America and—get this—it knows where all the Wal-Mart’s are. So you just tell it your destination and it tells you how to get there and lets you stop on the way to stock up on Old Roy dog food and Sam’s Choice soda.
All of this would be great, of course, if Dad actually had a destination in mind. You see, Dad’s drives don’t have an end point—they are literally journeys to nowhere.
Unfortunately the GPS didn’t know that, so it kept telling Dad to get off the freeway and take another road. We got off the main three-lane highway and onto a bumpy road the GPS kept nattering on about. Now you’d think that once we got onto the bumpy road the GPS lady would be happy. But no. She kept interrupting our conversations to tell Dad to get back on the highway.
So we did.
And for about 45 minutes we got off the highway, returned to the bumpy road and then got back on the highway and started the cycle all over again. We tried to resist. We argued with Dad. We argued with the GPS. We called both of them insane. But Dad wouldn’t listen.
And then we got onto the highway and the GPS started yelling at my dad to get on the highway. You know—the one he was already on. And Dad started yelling right back at it. I’ll be honest here. Dad wasn’t being nice to the stupid voice in the box.
And then my mom said something so awful, so heinous it startled all of us into stunned silence. She said, “stop at the next gas station, I’m going to ask for directions.” Well, you could have heard a pin drop in the truck. Even the GPS chick was quiet.
For a second. Then she began demanding that we get off the freeway RIGHT NOW and pull into Wal-Mart.
In fact, she was downright insistent that we go to Wal-Mart. The GPS started screaming, “turn right for Wal-Mart.” And “you have passed the Wal-Mart, exit now to return to Wal-Mart.” I was starting to get scared. What was next? Would the GPS demand that we give Target equal time? Would she insist we call her “Hal” and then dump us off in space somewhere?
Harry tried to help. I mean, he’s a pretty modern guy, plus he’s an engineer. So he summoned all his technical knowledge and did what any other engineer would do.
He unplugged the GPS.
And the voice was silent. So was everyone else. I think we were all holding our breath. And then very slowly, Harry plugged the GPS back in. It whirred. A bunch of stuff flashed on its tiny screen. And the lady said, “destination, please.”
And my mother turned to my father and said, “if you don’t tell it to take us home on the main highway this instant, I will leave you at Wal-Mart.”
And that’s how we got home. Without the lady yelling at us. But I’ll tell you; I don’t think Dad’s learned his lesson. Just before Harry, Junior and I left, I overheard him in his truck, talking to the GPS lady. And I swear I heard him say, “Don’t tell my wife, but I think for the next trip we should take only country roads.”Add me to your rss reader | Become a Fan on Facebook!