I am addicted to, besides everything else, technology. But I usually keep it in check and don't chase every new gadget. Spacing new technology over time keeps me from spending every waking second in the learning curve.
But shortly before Christmas, my job upgraded my cellphone. It had to be done since I was incapable of checking my calendar or email when I was out of the office...which I thought was actually a good thing. And, therefore, last week, a new Motorola Droid appeared on my desk.
A cute little thing with pretty colors on icons I didn't understand. I figured out how to make a phone call and answer a phone call -- instead of flipping it open or pushing a button, you have to swipe your finger across the screen.
But it also beeped everytime someone sent me an email. Finally I learned to turn off the email notification sounds!
Then I pushed a button that said "Maps." Well I didn't actually push a real button. It is all touch screen stuff so I put my finger on something that resembled a button. And a map of South Carolina appeared. Pretty cool.
There was a blue dot on the screen and I zoomed in on it...closer and closer...and the map got bigger and focused on Charleston...then on downtown...then on the street where I work...then on my building! And the blue dot was in the Northwest corner of the building where my office was! The blue dot was me! How does this Droid know?!! I was afraid to zoom in closer for fear I'd be looking at the bald spot on top of my head.
BAGMAN: "Yeah, right! Baldspot, my ass. Your baldness hasn't been a 'spot' for years."
Okay, I got it. GPS. Every phone needs GPS. Now I can check whenever I am in doubt to make sure I am actually where I think I am.
But last week, returning from Christmas shopping at the mall, I decided to risk trying the the navigation function. Now I still remember how to drive home from the mall -- maybe the Droid will be more helpful when I get Alzheimers -- but I spoke to it. Yes, in today's world, you can speak to your technology. "Navigate to 1224 Wynnwood Court, Mount Pleasants, South Carolina!" I said.
And the phone spoke back...with a kind of whiny female voice..."Turn left onto Rivers Avenue." So I did. We got to the expressway and it told me to turn left onto the Interstate. I was confused because I know that I usually turn right.
Did the Droid know a shortcut? Had I forgotten how to drive home?
But I ignored it and turned right. "Take the next exit at Remount Road," said the Droid. It wasn't giving up.
Althought the purpose of voice navigation is so you don't have to keep looking at your cellphone while driving -- a dangerous practice -- I glanced at it anyhow. It was telling me that the estimated time to my destination was 3 hours and 20 minutes. Some shortcut!!! The way I go usually takes 27 minutes. I drove by the exit and said "Stupid Droid!"
"Take the next exit at Aviation Road," said the Droid unperturbed at my irritation.
"Like hell I will," I snapped at it. As I drove past the Aviation Exit, I picked up the Droid, pushed the talk button and said, "Cancel Navigation."
The whiney voice responded, "Take the next exit at Montague Avenue."
My God, I'm being kidnapped. It's trying to take me the wrong way. By now I'm swerving all over the road, braking to avoid hitting drivers who are swearing at me and giving me the finger, and trying to turn off the damn thing! But even after hitting the off button, the voice lived on! Finally after forcing two other cars onto the shoulder, I saw the Droid's destination for me: "Mount Pleasant Church, Charlotte, North Carolina!" At least it got the Mount Pleasant part right. So much for voice activation!
On the Expressway, by now my driving while wrestling with Droid was scaring even me, so I put Droid on the passenger seat and covered him with Christmas presents. But underneath I head the muffled whine everytime I passed an exit. "Take the next exit at..." In fact, once it even told me to "Make a U-turn."
"On the Expressway at 70 miles per hour?!!!" I yelled back at it. "You're trying to get me killed!"
"Make a U-turn," it dictated again.
But when I finally got off at the right exit...at least the one I thought was the right exit...I stopped at a convenience store and spent 20 minutes trying to type in the correct address on a virtual keyboard designed for mice, if mice had fingers and were able to type.
We became friends again. It told me what to do and I did it. But then it got scary because as we neared my subdivision, instead of little maps on the screen it started showing photographs of the intersections. How does Google do this?!!
Once again I turn into a road menace as I drive through my subdivision holding the Droid up and watching as the screen shows me photos of what I am seeing in front of me. It seems unbelieveable but if any of you have seen Google Maps in action -- it is true. Some poor blokes have been paid to drive everywhere and take pictures of everything.
Until finally, Droid says, "You have reached your destination."
I look at the screen and there is actually a picture of my house there. The garage door is open and suddenly I am in the Twilight Zone. Because on Droid's screen, my car is already in the garage!
Terrified of breaking some time/space or virtual world/actual world continuum, I take a long dispairing sigh, make a U-turn and start heading back toward the Mount Pleasant Church, which is now 3 hours and 40 minutes away.
I thought of calling for help but couldn't remember if this new upgraded phone really made phone calls or not.