My first idea was to snag a v2 iPhone for this trip. It was going to have GPS, the rumors said, which we’d need for finding our way around the backroads, and frontroads, of all these new towns. I won’t say I planned the trip around getting one, but the timing certainly didn’t hurt. The plan lasted all of 60 minutes into the Macworld keynote before it was revealed the phones would be released July 11, at a time when we’d likely be somewhere in rural Canada.
Then I remembered they actually sell dedicated GPS devices. Little machines to sit on your dash and tell you which way to go. I’d always considered them with such derision, yet another device to disengage one from one’s surroundings and let automation take over. But for our needs, it actually seemed like a useful tool, potentially saving us hours of getting-lost time, time we can then spend outside the car, enjoying the world.
So we bought one. At Conrad’s suggestion, we chose a TomTom One XL, refurbished. It arrived only a couple days before we left, and sat idly by as we frantically packed. As I rolled out of town Thursday morning, I tried it out for real for the first time. First setting changed: voice accent. I picked Jane, the pleasant British lady. (Her name may be Jane, but we still call her TomTom, spoken like a British countess calling her maidservant).
I take back everything I said. TomTom is magic. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth exclaiming: she knows where you are! I surprise myself sometimes by how surprised I get at new technology, dozens of years after they’re new. This thing not only knows where you are and where you’re going, and can tell you how to get there, but can also offer you options if you tell it you don’t like option A. Heck, don’t tell it anything, change your path mid-stream, and it’ll intuit your intent and recalculate for you without saying a word.
Well… that’s actually a bit of a sore point between us and our TomTom. She can be a little stubborn. Turn off unpredictably because you see a mini-golf a half-mile down a side road, and suddenly you’ll hear a serious British voice pipe up from the dash: “Turn around when possible.” And when you say back, “Calm down, TomTom. It’s mini-golf. Gotta check it out,” she obstinately ignores you. And let’s be real; TomTom should know when there’s mini-golf nearby and assume you’re going. But she doesn’t, she keeps whining, at which point we have to admonish her and power her down until she learns her lesson.
The concern is that she’s not only smart enough to learn her lesson, but capable of exacting revenge. Twice in this last week she’s pretended to know where I am, yet encouraged me to turn the wrong way down one-way streets. And yesterday she made Sarah take scary unpaved backroads. Accident? TomTom’s not revealing anything. I have my suspicions.
All told, TomTom has brought much more joy and than frustration (and so far, no head-on collisions). I’m not sure what’ll happen to her after the trip is done. She’ll probably be more hassle than she’s worth Chicago, not to mention making us look like a couple of tourists. I suppose we’ll put her away until the next road adventure.