The few maps we had weren’t all that helpful, since they only sketched out the broad outlines of colonies and towns, and rarely if ever went into detail on trails, roads, and byways.
As I’ve learned, here in the 21st century, paper maps such as we had are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. That’s a real shame, since there is a unique tactile pleasure one gets from unfolding a map, holding it in your hands, turning it around to the left, to the right, and upside down, until your desired destination finally becomes evident as you squint through your bifocals at it.
And then, there’s the whole matter of refolding the map, which we won’t go into, because it calls into question all sorts of issues like competence, intelligence, spatial reasoning, patience, persistence, etc.
Nowadays, these amazing electronic inventions of yours, like cellphones and GPS navigators, are considered standard equipment, if not downright necessities, when one goes on any kind of trip, whether to a far-flung distant shore or just around the block.
I find myself marveling at the sheer ingenuity of these devices – they can pinpoint any location in a matter of seconds, and then even direct you to that place, often with the help of some very knowledgeable voice, ether male or female, depending on one’s preference.
In all honesty, however, I must confess that these voices can be a little hard to understand sometimes, because of some unusual dialect with which I am not familiar. Their simple, direct manner is much appreciated, however, since their guidance is not burdened by editorial or emotion-laden comments like, “you should have turned there”, “I told you so”, “What were you thinking?”, “Didn’t you hear me?”, and “I can’t make out the print through the coffee stain.”
One other challenge one occasionally faces, also, is that of real geographic surroundings not living up to the electronic rendition. There have already been a number of times I have been led astray, looking for a road that did not exist, or proceeding on a circuitous detour only to find myself back where I started, or discovering my passage blocked by a river or some other obstacle that the GPS voice either had not accounted for, or was totally unaware of.
And then, of course, there are the times when human error enters the picture, such as when I thought I was very clear about my destination, but the GPS voice misunderstood me, or made an assumption as to which colony (or, rather, state, here in the 21st century), the place could be found.
For example, if I were to ask for directions to “Franklin,” I could conceivably be routed to any one of 38 states, from Pennsylvania to Alaska! (And that does not even take into account the scores of additional "Franklin" this or that, like Franklin Elementary School, Franklin Avenue, Franklin Institute, etc.)
Personally, I would rather enjoy a journey to any of these 38 “Franklin” towns, but when I have a specific, particular destination in mind, I feel it would behoove the GPS voice to take me to the correct one which I had originally requested.
So, if you were to ask me if there were one way I would want to improve upon this otherwise marvelous electronic map invention, I would suggest perhaps imbuing Mr. or Mrs. GPS voice with a little more common sense, to avoid any of the pitfalls I have just described.
Your humble servant,