“Always trust your instruments,” my husband says. And that’s how we got into trouble, for not only was Emily linked to a satellite, but she spoke that cultivated Queen’s English that commanded our respect. We did not suspect our danger.
My daughter and I were driving out to Ohio, a trip of 12 hours according to Google Maps. I had determined to stay out of the lake effect snows in western New York, so our plan was to head onto Route 88 out of Albany, and into Pennsylvania, which is not the shortest route. We were in a rental Ford Focus, and I programed the GPS in it, selecting British English, “Emily”.
I knew by my study of Google Maps that the quickest way was to take Route 90 across NY (which would lead me into Lake Erie snow), and that her counsel would differ from my planned route for a while. I didn’t study Google printout, alas, for when she gave the unexpected command to take Route 7 as we entered Albany, I didn’t know the wisdom of it. At highway speed already, and with no time to evaluate, that’s what we did, and there began our first sense that we had been commandeered by a hostile force.
My daughter, a new driver, was not up to the task of working out the details, and couldn’t answer whether this shortcut would put us on Route 90 after the exit for Route 88. It did. On I-90 at last, rather than go back, we continued to an exit that had a 2-lane road that could take us all the way down to Route 88. Once we got off, we experienced Emily’s temper.
“Continue .3 mile and turn left, and return to Route 90.”
“Continue .5 mile and make u-turn.”
“Continue 1.2 mile and turn left.”
Imagine a cold menace in her voice as she pounded us again and again and we continued to defy her. It spooked us to know our progress was being monitored by satellite, and its ambassador was not pleased.
Finally, after about an hour, we had progressed enough that the shortest route was the one that lay ahead. Peace reigned, as long as we stayed on the highway. Each time we exited for a pit stop, she barked corrections. Tyrant. Twice she told us to get off just before a major route change, in order, we think, to put us on a ‘shortcut’. We rejected her advice and got back on. This was not a happy collaboration.
I will give her grudging praise, for she did navigate us through some quick route changes in Akron. On the other hand, she also warned me to get left a few times, making me shift lanes in busy traffic, when all that was necessary was for me to stay put when a bypass forked to the right.
She got us to our hotel all right. We were on the road 14 hours.
The next day we drove that last 2 hours to the college, had a wonderful day at this wonderful school, and returned to our hotel. The next morning we were shocked to find a dense snow on the ground and in the air, and our first hour was just a black ribbon through a snow-covered interstate in the dark before dawn. We were plagued by increasing traffic that insisted on passing on the slimy left lane. (More than once I saw a car come up the entrance ramp, move to the left and then freeze there in a moment of deep regret.)
Okay, now comes Emily’s revenge. That band of snow was behind us, blue skies above, and we were glad to be on the highway along Lake Erie, Route 90 at last. No snow in the forecast. A short day of driving–only 7 hours from Ohio to my folk’s house. Emily was silent, for our way and hers coincided.
All of a sudden she told us to exit. We were in Pennsylvania, one exit shy of the New York border. Puzzled, we exited, paid our toll, and emerged in a backwater area of some former industrial city. Emily was dead. She did not respond to her switch, to replugging, to fierce and frantic shaking. Again we were on a limited-access highway at 55 mph, completely in the dark about her intentions.
We figure she had a stroke, saw it coming, and took us down with her. Her final act was to add half an hour to our trip.
Next time we’ll choose American English. A nice, companionable Texan, right?
“Y’all take the right turn comin’ up.”
“Okay. Gimme a minute…How ’bout this’un?”
Hmmmm. Rand McNally for me, I think. An instrument I can trust, and it speaks my language.