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Hand me my crutch, boy.

15 November 2012

This morning, I decided to make the drive in to work without my GPS. That may sound silly — who needs a GPS to get them to a place they go every day? But if you’ve ever tried to make a commute in Dallas (or Houston or any other mega-city), you know it’s not a simple matter of hopping on the freeway for a bit, then getting off at your exit, then driving a few blocks to the office. In my case, it’s seven different freeways.

But I digress. I’ve worked at my current hired-gun position for four weeks, and I’ve used the GPS to drive to the office every day until today. This morning, when I got in the car, I decided not to set up the GPS. I was curious if I actually knew how to get to the office, or if I just blindly followed what the machine told me to without learning anything.

I’m happy to report that I do, indeed, know how to get to the place I’ve driven to every day for the last month. I’m unhappy to report, however, that the experience of driving to work without the GPS was kind of nerve-wracking.

See, it’s not the directions that I wanted from the machine — I knew where I needed to turn and all that. It was all of the supplemental information that I missed. What’s my ETA? How does this slowdown affect my arrival time? How many miles am I from the 12-183 junction? How many minutes did sitting on this onramp cost me? Do I have missile lock? (My GPS is much more advanced than yours.)

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Of course, I hit some slowdowns on the way. But without the constant updated information my GPS feeds to me, I started to panic — was I going to be late? How late? How many minutes have I been crawling at 20 miles an hour?

I arrived at the same time I always do. In fact, having or not having a GPS didn’t really affect my drive one way or the other, now that I knew where I was going. But it impacted how I felt about the drive. It’s the same way I feel about the Internet — I don’t need it, but I get a little panicky if I don’t have access to it.

Would there have even been an analog for this feeling 30 years ago? Is having access to tons of information all the time a good thing, or is it just more crap we don’t need? I leave it to you, my friends. Discuss.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 15 November 2012 0716

    I’ve never used a GPS for driving. I’m definitely analog in that regard…when I’m going someplace I don’t know, I look it up in Google Maps and…draw a map. For me, the act of drawing the map puts it in my head to the point I usually don’t have to look at what I’ve drawn.

    I don’t know if it’s that I’m much more familiar with the area than you, or if I’m just that zoned in the morning, but when I’ve had to drive to work, I’ve never cared about time. I just get up and go, and if there’s a wreck, my mind doesn’t wonder how much it will affect my time in traffic.

    When it comes to the Internet, I feel a bit twitchy when I’m disconnected. That said, I think we lose something by always being connected to things. There are times I meet a friend for lunch, and every time their phone vibrates or beeps, they go straight to it. It’s like a Pavlovian response. I’m currently taking a Facebook break…started this week. And…I’ve found myself, at least twice a day, going to Facebook automatically and being faced with the login screen. On my laptop and my phone, just this automatic response.

    It’s funny…I’ve been chatting with a friend about connectivity. We both agree that technology is great, but we’ve both found ourselves stepping back from it all and seeking a quiet pace. For me, I’ve often felt, “Must blog! Must tweet! Must do this and that!” to keep things online current in the hope of selling e-books and other things. But when I stop and look at it, it really hasn’t done much for me. I’m not crapping on social media for promotion; I know people who make several times what I make and attribute it to social media. But…I’m better served for the kind of writing I do by retreating a bit and focusing on taking time to work slowly and steadily.

    We’ve chatted a little bit about it before. I know that even as much as we’re both online that we still find time each day to just sit and think. So I can’t say being connected is a bad thing, necessarily, but I know that for me, I am more calm and a better writer when I don’t go online and see friends arguing about which politician/operating system/smart phone/religion/band/movie/TV show/etc. is better. I’m still on Twitter because there I’m connected to other writers and have it set to give me publishing information. Facebook…even when I hide people they change things so I still see people replying to the people I’ve hidden or deleted and it’s just become noise.

    I guess right now, I’m trying to find how much noise I’m willing to let in.

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