Saturday, July 10, 2010

Is this the way to Amarillo...?

… again?

Driving is of course fraught with danger and divorce, particularly when heading Beyond Familiar Territory.

I was definitely not made for driving – I hate it, and never have any idea where I am. On the other hand George, whose ridiculous eyes cannot sensibly be inflicted on a steering wheel, automatically commits a journey to memory after a single trip. Hence George navigates our outings and I hyperventilate them.

As for SatNav, what’s the point, I’ve always thought. I already have to concentrate Really Hard on the road - how could I watch a second version on screen at the same time? George, however, has long dreamed of satnav, foreseeing the end of all those hysterical Completely-bloody-lost-again Exchanges we… exchange.

And Loh! Conveniently timed for an imminent far-flung birthday party, our junk mail this week klaxoned a portable satnav on very special offer. We found our way to it Hotfoot. It sounded perfect – George would consult the screen held on his lap, and I would listen to the soothing yet no-nonsense Voice of Brian. George merrily set up the Essential Stuff.

Initial test-drive was disappointing – thirty kilometres into the wilderness, Brian shut completely up. This turned out to be a faulty fuse in the car cigarette-lighter-charger, but we had to ricochet around thirty or forty other and very different kilometres before we made it home and found out. After all, we’d both been too mesmerised by satnav to take any notice of the actual roads...

Our second satnav trial was much more fun – George fascinated by the detail onscreen, and I building up an easy reapport with Brian. I picture a sort of Peter Donaldson (R4 newsreader), as he gently tells me

‘In 250 metres, turn lef... D475.’
and reminds me as we approach, ‘Turn left... D475.’ ‘Turn LEFT!’

Then, as we sail past the turn he says (without a word of reproach), ‘In 100metres, Turn left... D476.’ He Knows Where We Are, and is determined to persuade us into a leftly direction. If we’ve bizarrely ignored his instructions for the back road, he knows exactly how much leeway to allow before, ‘Perform U-Turn... whenever possible.’

And if you ignore that, you can practically hear him flipping pages growling, ‘Where the bloody hell are they going?’

Every so often, there’s a twinkly burst of strings to Warn us. We’re not sure what of – we did think speed limit entry, exit, breach… Our own readings don’t always agree, but who are we to question the Mighty Brian?

Of course, Wikipedia is but one source of worrying tale:

A number of road accidents in the UK have been attributed to misdirection by satellite navigation systems. On May 11, 2007, a driver followed satellite navigation instructions in the dark and her car was hit by a train on a rail crossing that was not shown on the system. In Exton, Hampshire,the County Council erected a sign warning drivers to ignore their "sat nav" system and to take another route, because the street was too narrow for vehicular traffic and property damage resulted from vehicles getting stuck.[
On March 25, 2009, a man drove down a steep mountain path and almost off of a cliff after he was allegedly directed by his portable GPS system. He was finally stopped by a wire fence. “

Well Pchaw! That kind of thing happens to us all the time…

For after just one (correctly-charged) outing, I have overcome my misgivings about this robot machine. I think Brian will be the end to much disagreement on George's part, and the perfect companion if I want to run away and join the circus.

Now – how did George actually plug it in?