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Why Your GPS is Not Your Friend

Updated on August 21, 2017
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.


If only it could -

The advent of GPS devices has changed our lives. It's changed the way we plan our trips to the grocery store or to the other end of the continent.

Twenty years ago when we lived in a desert overseas, my husband had a contraption in his military-provided vehicle (the Army doesn't have "cars" - it has "vehicles".) It was called a Magellan and he and his comrades in arms talked about it in terms of "lats" and "longs". To me they could have been speaking Greek. One soldier had the bright idea to cut across the desert between two highways (and the term should be used very loosely in this context) only to find himself stuck in the sand under the worst of conditions: alone. Soon he wasn't so much stuck as buried. Thanks to the miracle called a Magellan he radioed for help and before his water bottle ran dry he had a bevy of fellow soldiers nearby enough to laugh out loud at him. Just what a person hopes for under those kinds of circumstances.

Today we have GPS, global positioning systems. They come in a variety of brands. Mine is a Garmin. It came programmed with a woman's voice. I quickly figured out how to switch the setting from English Jill to English Jack, which is surprising because I usually hate the sound of my husband's voice telling me what to do. "Hate" is a strong word. Maybe I should chose another one . . . no, hate works.

I went online looking for a voice I thought I'd like better than Jack. All I came up with for options were Darth Vader and Yoda. I think this project is going to take more research, possibly beyond my current abilities. I'll ask my husband. He's a great resource for things like this, and this situation does not fall under the category of him telling me what to do. It falls under the category of him fixing something for me when I can't fix it myself. I love him for that.

This generation of GPS devices is new to both of us. We recently gave it a real road test on a trip to the one place on earth where you need all the help you can get when it comes to driving: Washington D.C. But at the end of four days using the device to circumnavigate the worst traffic on the planet and more intersecting highways than I thought were possible (their highways all circle the District of Columbia like it's the center of the universe) I kind of felt sorry for the poor little, battery operated thing.

You know, after a while, that voice saying, "Recalculating" takes on an edge. At some point the emphasis on the word shifts from the first syllable to the second: reCALculating, as If to say, "You know, schmuck, if you'd just listened to me way back three exits ago, you wouldn't be in this mess right now."

Then there is the tone it might take when you keep ignoring its direction and it's spitting out "recalculating" in such a rapid repeat it sounds like an Uzi with the trigger jammed to fire. Recalculat-recalcula-recalcu- At some point you just know it's thinking, "Just do what the hell I'm telling you, will you?!"

There is also the tone it surely would take when you've finally figured out that you had it set for the most direct route (as the crow flies, and in a place like D.C. that means going through all manner of intersections and streets not listed on any map any where) instead of the fastest route, which will take you on our nation's capital's infamous Interstate Highways. The metro Washington area must have at least ten of them if they have one. Under these circumstances, if the Garmin could speak for itself, when you finally reach your destination it would surely say, "See. I told you so. Or at least I tried to tell you - Jerk." Whether it was set for English Jack or English Jill, or Yoda, hearing that tone of voice would probably cause you to rip the darned thing from the console of your rented vehicle, car, whatever, and hurl it directly out the window as far as you had the ability to throw.

But then, how would you find your way back to the airport? Ask directions? Perish the twentieth century thought.

Of course, in Washington D.C., if my husband had his way, all GPS would have a default setting that would always direct you to the Air and Space Museum. I believe this to be universally true of all husbands.

Last but not least, if you really want to piss the device off, let it catch you confirming its direction with a printed map. You can tell by the sound of its voice, it hates that.

Would you listen to this voice?


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    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Could sure use this toy on this trip to Scotland! Watch for upcoming hubs in travel section.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Audrey: If you are anything like me, you'll catch up about a year after something is "hot". I'm never ahead of the curve. Usually my husband drags me kicking and screaming into the store to buy the latest thing - when it's on a bargain sale.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      4 years ago from California

      What about those of us who don't have anything? I feel so left out!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      RTalloni: Amen! Well said. Actually, taking the train is a lot of fun. Check out phdast7's hubs on the subject.

      phdast7: I found Sean's voice but it was being too funny. I just wanted the voice. Still looking.

    • RTalloni profile image


      5 years ago from the short journey

      These machines are interesting creatures. On a long drive after a long silence, it can be quite unnerving to have it speak to you in such authoritative tones. Here's a little poem for you. :)

      Magellan, Garman, what's in a name?

      GPS systems, they're all the same.

      Asking, telling, never taking blame,

      Next trip, I may simply take a train!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great hub. If and when you find the voice of Sean Connery, then, and only then, will I buy a Garmin. :) Sharing.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Welcome to my hubs seekingpeace91. I'm still searching for the voice of Sean Connery for mine. That voice could lead me anywhere. I'd settle for James Earl Jones too, if I could find him.

    • seekingpeace91 profile image


      6 years ago

      Love this hub! You write well- fun to read. We are constantly giggling about our GPS, and love personifying it, as you have. We also talk back to ours. The kids especially love to change ours to Spanish, just to throw me off, or switch to the flying eagle or rolling ball instead of the nice, generic car going down the purple line on the map...

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Sounds like she really made hers mad! Thanks for the read and the comments. Welcome to my hubs Bmorton24!

    • Bmorton24 profile image


      6 years ago from Georgia

      A friend of mine had one and she said it tries to turn her into the ditch like every time she uses it... i think it is a Garmin

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      In 1990 deployed to Saudi Arabia, these were the newest toys. Now everybody has them. That's how it goes! Good to hear from you. It's been a while.

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 

      6 years ago from Arlington, TX

      I use Magellan and she keeps me fairly straight around this huge Metroplex I call home. Never had such devices in the military but it probably is an asset, though your land nav skills might suffer.

      The Frog

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Your Garmin gal, huh? So you don't have Yoda?

    • LALLEN2855 profile image


      6 years ago from Madison, Alabma

      I read a story some time ago about a woman in Washington state, who was found stranded in her car on a deserted logging trail. The car was up to the doors in a snow bank. When asked by her rescuers why she was there, she replied that she had simply been following the GPS driving instructions. I am always skeptical of the route my Garmin gal gives me :)


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