I've wanted a GPS ever since I saw one in action, riding in my friend's car in Washington, D.C. We needed a place to park my car and were looking for a metro station that had free weekend parking. And he just told the GPS what we needed, and the GPS told us where to go. At one point, he took a wrong turn, and the GPS cheerfully figured out where he needed to go to get back on course. It was beautiful. The GPS opens up new places. You can be in a strange town and still find whatever it is you are looking for. Got a hankering for barbeque in Rocky Mount or need to make some copies in Austin? The GPS can make it happen. No more wandering around for hours or stopping at a dimly-lit gas station to ask someone for directions, only to be told "I don't live 'round here." I have been told that by so many different gas station attendants that I wonder whether people say that just to avoid having to think about how to get somewhere.
So, yeah, you don't need to sell me on the concept of the GPS. Unfortunately, my mother trained me to delay gratification. I wanted the price to keep coming down, and I wanted the technology to get better. Two years ago, I was hoping to win one at my company's holiday party. I put all my raffle tickets into the GPS prize bucket. But my stupid coworker won it, as if he needed it for his stupid airplane.
However, my new phone, the Droid, has a GPS system. A beautiful, occasionally quirky, battery-depleting GPS system. It is super awesome. I justify the purchase of the Droid by the fact that I would have spent $100 on a GPS system anyway, and this particular one also makes phone calls, takes pictures, and checks my email.
The GPS is the friend of spontanaeity, or at least of well-organized spontanaeity. When I go anywhere, I always make sure to print out the Google directions to my destination. I am responsible like that. Even if I decide to go somewhere just for the fun of it, off the cuff for no reason at all, I go and print out directions. Taking the time to do that makes me feel less wild and carefree than boring. With a GPS, I can be wild, carefree, and responsible.
The GPS is the friend of those of us are not walking compasses. It's taken me a long time, but I'm beginning to suspect that I do not have a good sense of direction. How does a person even know that, anyway? Having never been inside someone else's brain, I have no idea whether any other sense of direction is superior or inferior. But I suspect it, mostly based on this example.
My high school was a big rectangle, three floors high, with stairways at each corner. I went to that same school for four years, and I never, ever got it straight in my head which stairway went where. So if I went down the stairs to the right of the library, I was always a little surprised to come out right next to the lunch line. It didn't matter, because I was always going to the same place every day, so once I had a routine, that was that. Unless I had to go somewhere that was not on my routine. Then I sort of turned in a circle, trying to figure out which stairway to take. At no point did it occur to me that some people just knew how the upstairs mapped to the downstairs of the building. I never even thought about it, and I was surprised to find that other people did.
So yeah, if I can spend four years in a smallish high school, not knowing my way around, I think it's pretty safe to say that I have a tendency to get lost, once let loose upon the great wide world. The GPS understands this about me, and it helps me, ever so patiently. When I miss a turn, it blithely redirects me, happy to be of service. If I take the wrong exit, it's more than happy to send me clover-leafing without judgment.
Most of all, the GPS is a friend to yard salers. I try not think about how many of my major decisions revolve around my thrifting hobby, from the purchase of a fuel-efficient hatchback to my long-held desire for a GPS. Before the Droid, I would pick out the yard sales, plot a course on Google Maps, and then print out instructions. To save paper, I would often print as many as six pages per sheet, which made for very tiny text (not good for when you're driving and reading at the same time). This strategy worked well, except I could never veer off course, or switch the order of the sales I visited, because the directions were good for one exact course only. So I got lost sometimes, wasting precious Saturday morning minutes trying to escape giant suburban neighborhoods.
Now, I still plot a course on Google Maps, using CraigsList and newspaper ads to find where the good sales are going to be. And then I just email the list to myself. I open the email on my phone, click on the address, and immediately my phone shows me the location on a map. It helpfully offers to navigate there from my current location. Then, once I am finished with that sale, I go back to the email and click on the new location. If I need to stray from the course in the case of a doughnut emergency, I can, and if I need to go to sale D before sale C because sale C hasn't started yet, I can do that, too. It's like my GPS wants me to have a good yard sale day. I wish all my stuff felt that way.