Saturday, October 30, 2010

Without Gretel I Would Stay Lost

I have a constant companion since moving here recently. She’s bossy and speaks in a monotone that grates on me. She doesn’t always know what she’s talking about, but I literally would be lost without her. Her name is Gretel, and she is a GPS. Gretel spreads electronic breadcrumbs along whatever trail I’m traveling, saving me lots of time backtracking, printing out Mapquest directions, or trying to use Google maps on my iPhone while driving — not the safest of practices.

I bought Gretel a little over a year ago after getting hopelessly lost near the DFW airport, trying to find a hotel in the dark in an area where one shopping center followed another. At one point I pulled into a Hilton hotel. I was staying in a Hilton, just not that Hilton and tried to talk a cab driver into leading me to the right hotel. He was willing to do it for money, of course, but convinced me finding the hotel I sought was a simple matter. An hour later and three more desperate pleas for help later, I found my hotel. First thing I did upon returning home was plunk down a C-note on a simple GPS.

This likely is the best investment I’ve made in saving my sanity, always a tenuous affair. I come from a long line of short people who are directionally challenged. My late father once headed down a highway, the car loaded with three tow-headed sons in the back — my mom in the front seat telling him he was going the wrong way. As usual, cigarette ashes were being flicked out the front window and flying into the back seat, which we unsuccessfully tried to dodge as they argued back and forth. As usual, my mom was right. My dad finally acquiesced when the road — under construction and not actually open, petered-out in the middle of nowhere.

My middle brother Scott, who lives in Four Points, bought his first GPS back when they were novelties and cost several hundred dollars. I made fun of him back then. To be fair, the boy could get lost in his own apartment, while I lived in East Texas in a town where I hung out off and on for nearly two decades. I didn’t need no stinking GPS.

Well, times and circumstances have changed. I can get to work here without turning Gretel on, though it took a few days. The route to the post office and the grocery store closest to my house still requires a quick check with my constant companion, just to make sure I head from home the right way. Scott suggested I use the water tower looming near my house as a landmark. I pointed out there are two Cedar Park water towers within sight. Taking directional advice from any of my family members is fraught with peril. My daughters aren’t any better at finding their way around than me. We all should have bought stock in Garmin.

Sadly, I can’t use Gretel when walking at 6 in the morning in the dark. I purposely devised a simple route that looped around the elementary school where my oldest daughter teaches, with minimal twists and turns. I’ve already gotten lost once while walking this year, on a foggy morning in Kansas — an experience I’m loath to repeat. I use Kasey’s elementary school as my beacon point, because I know how to get to my house from there, just three blocks away.

The other day I became distracted while listening to something on KUT, missed a turn and became uncertain of my bearings. Not to worry. I could see the school in the distance, so I hoofed it over there. Dang. It was the wrong school, the elementary campus on the other side of the subdivision. It took about 15 minutes to figure out my way back in the dark.

I know I have to wean myself from Gretel at least for daily basic travels. Codependency is a terrible thing. For now, though, I need this crutch. Otherwise, I’m liable to head down a highway to nowhere, just like my dad did all those years ago.

Originally published in the Hill Country News (Cedar Park, Texas), October 28, 2010

1 comment:

  1. Kasey and I do both have Garmins: hers is named Lucy and mine Muriel. We Borders folks are a sad lot, no?