Monday, September 14, 2009

You Have Reached Your Destination…

A few Sundays ago, one of the ministers of our Monthly Meeting eloped. She had met this very nice Baptist, you see, and Baptists take a lot less time to put together a wedding than Quakers do.

We all knew she was engaged, of course… but when they decided on Thursday to set the date for that Sunday, she didn’t spread the word beyond her family and a few close friends. That’s when my Baptist spy gave me the word. The groom’s niece is a friend of mine, and she called me on Friday to make sure I knew when the wedding would be, and to give me general directions to the church. “You might want to Google that, and make sure I’m right…”

So I shook the mud dauber nests out of my good skirt (mental note: must wear good skirt more often), rounded up the kids and the husband (who had providentially arrived home for that weekend), and set off. The church was about 50 miles away, in unfamiliar territory. When I sat down to Google it, Kevin said, “Naaah. Let’s just use Emma. I’d like to see how she does.”

Emma is Kevin’s new GPS unit. She has a lovely breathy Australian accent. Now that he is driving trucks cross-country for a living, Emma is a necessity. Getting lost and missing your turn, while driving a 50-foot long, 13-foot high, 48,000 pound truck, is a recipe for ulcers... sometimes even disaster. He had owned her for less than a week the day our minister eloped, and he was still learning her ways.

It was a beautiful day, and a lovely drive. Emma was fabulous and accurate, and pleasant to listen to. The navigation was so easy… no looking for street signs or straining to pick out landmarks. Just turn when she says so… what could be more grand for a Sunday drive?

That is, it was easy until she said, “Just ahead, turn right.” And I looked, and there was a bit of gravel road ending in a marsh, complete with cattails swaying where the road ended, roughly 50 feet from the highway we were on. There? Oh no.

“Uh-oh,” said Kevin. “We’ve entered strip-mined country.” Oh no. In strip-mined country, the world no longer looks anything like it used to, but the old roads are usually still on the map… just to keep the right-of-way open in case the county ever wants to put a road there again.

So much for easy. I ignored Emma and stayed on the road, and she silently recalculated a route minus marsh. “Just ahead, turn right.” No, Emma. I’m not driving up that narrow dirt track into those trees either. So Emma recalculated, muttering under her breath. “Just ahead, turn right.” No, Emma. I’m not turning into a gravel road with a gate across it marked No Trespassing that leads into the local exotic animal preserve. I don’t want to see any rhinos at the moment. More muttering from Emma. “Just ahead turn right.” Nope. Looks like another locked gate, my girl. If Emma had cursing in her vocabulary, she might have utilized it by now.

“Just ahead, turn right.” Now that road, I will take. And right we went. We drove along and drove along, and got to the T-junction ending our road. “Just ahead, turn right.” But Emma, I can see a sign for the church that says, Left 1.5 miles! Oh. Wait a minute. The road is closed to the left. We can’t follow that sign. OK, Emma. You must know a detour. Go for it, girl.

One and a half miles later, she announced with evident satisfaction, “You have reached your destination.” Hmmm…. Trees to the right. Trees to the left. Trees ahead. Trees behind. A beautiful woodsy little spot. Quiet. A bit quieter than I had expected a location that was about to have a wedding. A bit more barren of buildings than I had expected too. Perhaps these were wild Elven Baptists. Or perhaps Emma, being Australian, didn’t know as much about strip-mined Ohio as she liked to let on. No gray-cloaked deacons appeared to lead us into the woods. “Gimme those directions the niece gave me!” I sez.

Her directions weren’t quite complete, but they were accurate as far as they went. We made a few good guesses, and navigated by the seat of our pants a bit, and eventually found, without too much trouble, a lovely little white church, and an eloping minister standing on its steps. I think someone had tipped her off, because she didn’t look at all surprised to see us. She hugged us, and said, “I’m glad you’ve come. We’re still waiting for the best man. He should have been here by now.” As we took our seats, Kevin whispered to me, “He’s probably using a GPS.” We never did find out what delayed the best man, but the wedding eventually went off beautifully.

I suppose there’s a moral to all this. I suppose it has something to do with depending on your own good judgment, as you navigate the path of life. Or about not relying on other people to tell you when you have reached your destination. One thing for sure. When you seek the wild Elven Baptists, make sure you shake the mud dauber nests out of your good clothes.


Nate said...

I guess I'm old fashioned (sorta). I just can't see the value of spending hundreds for a backseat driver. But I DO love those map services. However, I recently got into the same sort of trouble using that. At least we had a printout showing alternates, and a pinpointed destination.
Ain't this modern world FUN?

Shawna said...

Ya gotta love it!

I am not going to run out and buy myself a GPS, I will say that. I can understand why Kevin wants it for driving his semi. He can program his route in, and then Emma tells him when to turn, in the absence of a human navigator.

I suppose if none of these new-fangled devices ever went wrong, we wouldn't have any good stories to tell...

Robin M. said...

I still prefer a AAA map with the whole area marked out to any of those newfangled services. With the online maps/dircections, if you miss a turn you're lost.

Once a woman using her new GPS came to my newly constructed apartment building. She called me to say, "I'm here, but I don't see the landmarks you described." I asked, "so what street are you on?" She said, "I don't know, the GPS just said to turn here and I did." She had to hang up, go find a street sign and call me back. Turns out she was two blocks up the street, because our address didn't really exist yet in the GPS database.

I heard that the best man was late because he had to finish ministering in his own church before he could come serve his best man duties. Now how's that for gossip the long way round?

Shawna said...

I could believe that... as I was following Emma's instructions, I couldn't help noticing that, if she were to suddenly stop working, I would have no idea whatsoever how to find my way either back or forwards...

Thanks for the long-way gossip about the best man. It would truly be the long-way round, if you heard it from someone in New Zealand... which isn't impossible, given the wild and wacky world of Quakerdom!

kevin roberts said...

Emma is valuable because if I take a wrong turn or disregard something she says, she will recalculate a corrected route for me within 10 seconds that she thinks will get me there from wherever I am, at any given moment.

That's extremely valuable if I make a wrong turn, because I can't hold a road atlas with one hand at 50 mph in the dark while driving through New York City rush hour with the other. And there ain't nowhere to pull over on the George Washington Bridge to look at a map.

But I get bad maps, bad directions, and bad GPS info all the time. I drive over curbs, smash stop signs, and take yet another bite out of that too-close telephone pole when that happens.

I just wave cheerfully at people while I crush the flower beds and after a while they wave back.

Ganeida said...

I don't think your GPS can be Australian. If it was it would know how to swear like a trouper using extremely colourful language.How do I know? I live in the midst of Australians, am Australian [though not the swearing sort] & all our GPS sound like Micky Mouse.