Laura and the family just returned from a 9-day modified staycation — she’ll call it a drive-cation — which included five days in Maryland/DC and then three days in, or at, or down, the Jersey Shore. They made the trip because Laura’s sister Linda and her husband Richard and their fantastic kids were coming east from L.A. to see DC and go down the shore, so Laura and the family decided it was a perfect opportunity to glom on to their plans and go along for the ride.
Laura’s friends and loyal brant readers know that one of the (many) things Laura hates more than carrots is flying, so taking a drive-cation is one of her favorite things to do. She packs up the car, sets Ben up with DVDs and her Nano in the backseat, makes sure the dog is in the crate with a big fluffy $2 faux bone from Petco, and prints out a whole stack of mostly wrong Mapquest maps and sets out across the great frontier that is her road trip thinking her deep thoughts. This time was no different — the DVDs, the Nano, the dog, the faux fluffy bones, the deep thoughts — except for the fact that there were no Mapquest maps.
There was a GPS instead.
Yes, Laura got a GPS for her birthday and this was the first time she was going on a real road trip with something other than a stack of printouts and her lousy sense of direction. She ended up using the station wagon that has a Stonehenge-type-built in GPS with a cumbersome and annoying GPS already it in (the car that Brendan always drives) and left her brand new stylus-pen touchscreen no-frills unit at home), and she ended up having a completely ridiculous and infantile meltdown somewhere off I-84 because she couldn’t figure out how to communicate to the GPS that she wanted it to calculate her route from Newton to Maryland via the Tappan Zee Bridge, not the George Washington Bridge — anything to avoid the traffic sinkhole that is I-95– but aside from that, and aside from the fact that it literally took almost 15 minutes to set the fucking thing every time they went somewhere, it was an amazing way to travel.
Laura’s actually been reading a lot lately about how navigational systems in cars are changing the way people relate to each other — she’s thinking specifically of an article that ran recently in the NYTs about how couples are fighting less because they’re not getting lost as much (she can’t find the link but will add it when she does)– and she’d like to add, just for the record, that she thinks this is absolutely ridiculous. Couples aren’t fighting less because they have GPS units in their cars — they’re just fighting differently.
Because the GPS instructions are so incredibly confusing and annoying. Every time they set the GPS on this trip, the monitor became a kind of test — how to read the instructions, or more exactly, how to interpret the instructions the GPS was giving them. Did the yellow arrow on the upper left corner of the screen pointing to the right mean take a right right now? Or did it mean, take a right later. In a little while. You know, when you feel like it. Did the thick blue highlighted road mean the road they were on, right now? Or the road they were trying to get to next, in 04. miles, the way it said in the upper right corner of the screen?