It's quite sad how frazzled we all get by technology. Often we're apprehensive at first, then we start to trust it, then we become reliant on it, then it sneaks up behind us and gives us a wedgie. If you've never experienced a wedgie, I can tell you it's uncomfortable.
A little while ago we, Mrs Nation and I, were taken in by the most personable piece of technology to sneak up on us yet. It was on a trip to England to see my cousin and her husband. They had run a highly successful business for twenty years or more and retired early. They now spend a great deal of time on their boat in Devon, funnily enough not missing work at all.
Mrs Nation and I decided to splurge a little on a modern hire car. It had an onboard talking GPS that had the most pleasant personality, nothing like the horrible woman who is always telling me my call is important to her when I'm on hold with the bank.
It was a gadget so I had to use it. I tested it out a few times on short journeys I was familiar with and very soon it was time to go to Devon. I programmed in the address my cousin gave me for the marina and off we went.
"Take the next turn left," Rosie told me. She had to have a name, the kids considered her part of the family now. I turned left. "Go straight for 3.6 miles." I went straight for 3.6 miles. You get the picture.
"You are exceeding the speed limit," she said.
"I don't think that's any of your business Rosie," I said.
She didn't mention it again and I think she sulked a little. She seemed to get over it soon enough and I imagined she was enjoying the motorway and not having to tell me where to go, until she said, "You are low on fuel, the next service station is in two miles."
Mrs Nation said, "Let's press on to the next service stop, it's clean and we can get wholesome food for the kids."
Uh oh! Thought I, what now?
"You are low on fuel," Rosie said a little petulantly.
"You remember the service station we stopped at on our way to Cornwall that time, a couple of years back? It's not far now," said Mrs Nation pointedly.
"Exit motorway in one quarter of a mile."
I looked for Rosie's volume button but she didn't have one, it was on or off. Off.
We drove past Rosie's suggested stop and went to Mrs Nation's suggestion. She doesn't have an off switch.
The restaurants and shops were closed for redecoration, I said nothing. Did Rosie know something we didn't? The place to buy fuel was open. We were able to get some snacks for the kids and Mrs Nation was very quiet. I needed to go to the bathroom and found the door locked. The key would undoubtedly be with the cashier. Why do they lock service station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?
As we headed toward the motorway I turned Rosie back on. There wasn't a sound from Mrs Nation. But there was a sound coming from Rosie and something was wrong. She sounded like Darth Vader from Star Wars. "REJOIN THE MOTORWAY," the voice boomed.
I cupped my hand over my mouth and mimicked, "You . . . don't . . . know the power . . . of the . . . Dark Side." It sounded more like someone with asthma with their head in a bucket.
The kids didn't like the new voice; they wanted to know where Rosie was. I tried to make a joke out of it, they were not interested. "Where's Rosie Daddy?" My daughter said. "When Rosie?" My young son chimed in, his interest is anything that his big sister is interested in.
"I think she may have turned to the Dark Side," I said.
After trying to restart Rosie a few times and only getting Darth Vader, we navigated our own way to the marina. The car seemed so quiet without her happy voice telling us when to turn. It's possible it took us a little longer to get there, there may have been a wrong turn or two, but we got there. My cousin was waving to us from the boat.
Mrs Nation looked across at me and said, "We should have stopped at that first service station like Rosie said, you know."
"I'll listen more closely next time," I said. It didn't matter how we reached agreement, as long as we did. This time I'd avoided a wedgie and learnt a valuable lesson. Technology is quite indiscriminate when it comes to showing people up.
As we unloaded ourselves from the car Rosie's cheery voice said, "You are at your destination."
Copyright 2007 Peregrine Nation