Friday, October 07, 2011
The Day my GPS Died
The GPS came with the rental car. I had trouble booting it up and had to call the GPS people. A live one answered the phone and she said that I had to use the access number that was provided with the rental paperwork. I told her I could not find it. She then asked for some proofs of ID, to ascertain that I was who I said I was, and when that was done she gave me the code. I keyed in the numbers and was up and running – or at least on the ground and moving. I really liked it. A woman’s voice told me when to turn, how to stay on the right or left, when to drive straight ahead and for how long. I got used to her voice and liked it. It sort of kept me company. The GPS is amazing, I thought to myself. It brought me right to any place I needed to go and its last words on any given routing were “You have reached your destination.”
Then it died. I do not know what happened. I was driving along, and the screen was lit and the voice as reassuring as ever. Then suddenly the screen went blank, the voice stopped, and no matter what I did, I could not bring it back to life. I jiggled the wires. Made sure there was power from the power jack in the car. There was – a little light told me as much. I tapped the screen. Then tapped it again, harder. Nothing twinkled. Nothing came to life. I knew that it was okay since from that point on, I knew where I was going. I was in familiar territory. But I missed the voice, looking at the passing miles on the little screen, missed knowing when I had erred in my following directions.
It was very sad.
I thought of something my brother Johnny had recently told me. He said that he was concerned that there would come a time when everything would be in the sky and available. At first I did not know what he meant. But I got it when he elaborated a bit. Someday, he said, everything will be in the sky. There will be books, messages, photographs, movies, directions, banking, reservations, antiques, puppies, condolence cards, divorces, food deliveries, restaurant and concert seating, traffic warnings – all these and more, up there floating around and available – yes, YOURS, for a fee and the press of a few buttons.
At first I felt bereft when the woman’s voice was no longer mine, no longer with me.
I was alone.
But in my heart of hearts, I knew she was not real and could not possibly care about anything. She was as dead as the GPS and had always been as lifeless as a corpse.
But something in me needed her for the ride.
With all that stuff swinging through the cosmos, I hope we do not lose our need for each other. We are, after all, inter-dependent creatures. We need the sun and rain and each other in equal measure. We need to ask directions to get through this life.
We need the joy of listening to music together, of waiting for the delivery of tangible goods. It is not good when virtually everything comes to us virtually. We need to ask, to stretch, to wait, to screw up, wait out turn on lines, learn patience when things take time.
Maybe the sky will buckle because of all the stuff, it will collapse in on us. We may well lose the sky and everything in it. Flattened by our needs. Laid low because we lost the way to each other.