Tuesday, 29 November 2011

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I Hate the Word "Recalculating"

I wonder what it was like to be a navigator on a 16th century exploring ship. When you didn't know where your destination was, did people still try and second guess the route you were taking? Would the captain of the ship sit beside you while you were studying the charts and keep saying "I think we should go this way because there will be more places to stop and look around."? I mean, you had the whole ocean to aim at. Short of telling the captain to just keep turning right, it seems like it would have been a pretty hard job to mess up.

I used to have charts. Well not really charts, but I had maps. Lots of them. Actually way too many of them. I used to keep them all folded up in the glove compartment of my car, and if you wanted to find your way to somewhere in Vancouver you'd have to sort through maps of Utah, Newfoundland, and a tourist map of Knotts Berry Farm. It was the perfect system for me, not because I was the only one who could read the maps, but because I was the only one willing to sort through the mess to find the right one. It didn't matter where you wanted to go...I was ready, and I had a map to get you there.

Now I have Mandy. Mandy is the TomTom GPS system that the Rio gave us a few years ago, and she's now in charge of directions in our car. Mandy has all the maps, and she never loses any or folds them backwards and puts them away in the wrong place. When Mandy plots a route she never follows the blue line of a river, figuring that they're probably just color coding the roads. She's never accidentally torn the corner off one of her maps, or written a phone number on one of them making it impossible to tell if Saskatoon is in section A-1 or B-14. Mandy can figure out the shortest route, the fastest route, or even the route that will pass you by the most Krispy Kreme stores if you want (and believe me...I want!).

The kicker is, she'll do all this without arguing with you once. If you take a wrong turn, Mandy simply recalculates your route, and starts calling out new directions. Try that with your wife giving you directions from the passenger seat. If Lori was struggling with one of these football field sized maps, trying to help me get to a library or (more likely) a Dairy Queen somewhere, and I decided to ignore her instructions and take a random side road, I promise you that the first words out of her mouth would not be "recalculating".

The beach is around here somewhere....
Of course, while good for marital harmony, Mandy can take the fun out of life sometimes. One of my favorite travel stories to tell is about driving through San Francisco when I was sixteen and running the toll booth on the Golden Gate Bridge in the middle of the night because I didn't realize it was there (Ummm...we're passed the statute of limitations on something like that right?). If I'd had Mandy along with me, it would have been the story of how we realized that there was a "toll road ahead" and decided to "take the exit right" to avoid it. Not really as compelling a story, although certainly a much more responsible one to share with my kids.

I doubt that I need to set that example with my children though, because they're already convinced that Mandy is the pinnacle of travel knowledge. In fact, despite my having been around almost 40 years longer than Mandy, my opinion no longer matters when it comes to travel times. If I tell my kids to pack up because we're about 15 minutes from our destination, but they check and see that Mandy says it's going to be an hour, they'll launch into a new movie on their iPad's without any hesitation. Mandy also seems to have some kind of telepathic communication ability with my children. When they have their headphones on, I can yell and scream at my kids but they'll never hear a word I say. The second I miss a turn however, and Mandy says the word "recalculating", off come all the headphones and there's a collective groan of "Daaaaad! Listen to Mandy!" from the back.

To make it clear, we didn't name Mandy. When you do the setup on a GPS there's a list of preprogrammed voices that you can select from, and the default voice on ours was called Mandy. It never occurred to us to change the selection, but there has been one drawback. Amidst the collection of 80's hair metal that populates my playlist for long drives, are some token classic tracks from the artists of yesteryear. One of these is Barry Manilow's "Mandy". The first couple of times my kids heard the song, they thought it was cute that Barry had written a song about our GPS, but of course they couldn't let it go at that. A little while ago I noticed that the sing-along participation ratio was increasing drastically every time "Mandy" came on. Then I started to listen a little more carefully:

Oh Mandy well
You came and you gave us directions,
But Dad still went the wrong way,
Oh, Mandy, you
Figured out the route we should be taking,
It still takes Dad all day,
Oh, Mandy.

Barry Manilow is now banned from our car.