May I Recommend Some Improvements?

>> Friday, September 11, 2009

Author's note: I recognize that today is a day of somber reflection, and mourning, to many people here in the United States. I contemplated how you all might feel if I continued this irreverent look at daily life, but then I thought of all the people I have lost in my life. I cannot think of one of them that would begrudge us a little laugh or happiness. And I cannot imagine any of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks would appreciate us changing what makes us happy, healthy, or free in commemoration of their deaths. Not to publish this blog today seemed disrespectful to me, and I don't think that is what they would want, although I know as individuals and as a nation we will miss them forever. So, with all due respect to those that have gone before ... I hope you enjoy today's post.

There is a post of one-liners going around Facebook right now that is quite a riot. One of the lines is something to the effect of this:

I wish Google Maps had an option to "avoid ghetto".

My first thought when I read this (after I stopped chuckling) was, hey, yeah! Then, like so many other things in life, this idea got me thinking. I have a lot of ideas about how we could improve the GPS, too.

This past weekend I learned the difference between old and new generation GPS devices. My new GPS is one of the "old generation" (which is more than adequate for my needs, and I'm content, so this isn't a complaint). This weekend I drove with my mother to Cleveland, with her "new generation" GPS. Both of them are made by the same company, so I'm comparing apples to apples, so to speak. After several days to consider these two devices, I decided that I have some suggestions to improve each of them.

Let's start with my "old generation" GPS. This machine sits in my car and dictates where I am to turn when I tell it where I want to go. When I don't listen to it, or I miss a turn, a snotty female voice says, "Calculating Route." This pithy condemnation is usually followed by the words, "When possible, make a legal U-turn." Most of the time I don't mind, however, there are two different circumstances when this statement bugs me. These two different circumstances have led me to suggest the following adaptations to this device. First, in addition to seeing options for "Fastest Route," "Shortest Distance," etc., I would like an option for "The Way You Always Go No Matter What I Say." So, if to avoid all the traffic lights that last 2 seconds for 27 cars, I always go around the mall, I'd like the GPS to give me directions involving going around the mall, or at least shut up when it sees that I'm going that way. Second, I want a pause button, or a bathroom break button. I mean, seriously, if I've been on 95 southbound for 5 hours, I am entitled to get off the freeway and seek a restroom without being pestered by this nagging female voice telling me to "Make a legal U-turn," don't you think? I mean, seriously, have a heart!

Now my mother's GPS is one of the "new generation." When the driver makes a wrong turn, it never says, "Calculating Route" out loud. It recalculates, but it doesn't tease you with it and it very seldom instructs the driver to make a legal U-turn. At first I thought I liked this options, but I soon rethought my position. See, instead of telling you to turn around, the device tries to route you to the next exit up the freeway, or around a few blocks, or anything to hide from you the fact that you screwed up. By blindly following the machine, I have ended up going several miles out of my way when I would honestly have preferred to turn around. I think this new device needs to say something when I screw up. I suggest something like this, "Hey, you missed your turn. Would you like to turn around now, or would you like me to drive you all over town to get there a different way so you don't have to admit you made a mistake?"

What do you think?


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