The Home Team: How do I hate thee? Let me count the Waze
In the beginning, there were maps.
I remember those innocent days when Matt, my oldest son, had a Pop Warner football game in, say, New Milford, and I'd trace the route on the map, then write the turns down on a "cheat sheet." Or Matt would take the role of navigator, sitting in the shotgun seat, map on lap, calling out the turns.
It took me awhile -- way longer than most -- but I grudgingly graduated to Mapquest. (Though recently my middle son Greg saw me using a Mapquest printout and gave me such a look of scorn you'd have thought I'd insisted the earth was flat.)
Before the first of my cross-country road trips -- I've now done four -- I was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of Global Positioning. My wife got me one of those portable Garmin devices and insisted I learn how to use it. I suppose I could have just driven due west and chances are I would have hit California, my destination, but there were a few places I wanted to see en route (the Grand Canyon, for one), so I guess Garmin made sense.
I actually became quite attached to Lady Garmin. I grew accustomed to her voice. And the charming way she'd whisper, "Recalculating." And where technology is concerned, when I finally get used to something, I don't give it up without a struggle.
This spring, when I was preparing for my fourth cross-country excursion in our new Audi Q5 SUV, I told Carol that Garmin was coming with me. She almost had a cow. "And I suppose you're going to stick it on your windshield with the suction cup?" In short, she shamed me into learning the sophisticated GPS system that had come with our "technology package."
And learn it I did. But when Matt joined me for a leg of the trip in Portland, Oregon, he absolutely insisted on using the Google Maps app on his iPhone. All of a sudden, for whatever reason -- not enough verbal directions, or something -- my sophisticated Audi GPS wasn't good enough.
Enter Greg. In our family, Greg is known as "Mr. Strategic." If there's a more efficient way to get from Point A to Point B, he knows it. And for Greg, the sun rises and sets on Waze, yet another iPhone app. Greg insists that if you don't use Waze when you're driving, then, quite simply, you're crazy. He's addicted. And he's turned my wife into a Waze junky, too.
I fear there's no turning back. I'll admit that a lot has been gained by these devices -- but, for me, a lot has been lost, too. For one, I like maps, and now nobody uses them. For another, there's not a Millennial alive who knows where he's going anymore. (I once asked Greg for "directions" to his office and he didn't even know what I was talking about.) Also, when a GPS device says to me, imperiously, "Now turn left!" -- I feel I have to turn left. Now. Even if it's into oncoming traffic. Which can be dangerous.
But by far the worst is this constant obsession with going the absolute most efficient way -- at all costs.
Carol and I were heading home from New York City earlier this week, after a dinner-and-theater night out. I was the driver, and was enjoying my typical driving Zen, listening to both the Mets game on WOR and the Cavs-Hawks game on ESPN.
Carol broke my trance. "Waze says we have to go east."
We were on Ninth Avenue, deep on the West Side. I just wanted to listen to the games. "I'm not doing it," I said, and went up the ramp to the West Side Highway. Traffic was slow. Waze kept squawking about going east. At 125th Street, Carol said, "I really, really think we should listen to Waze." So off we went, onto some avenue I'd never heard of. We made our way -- slowly -- across upper Manhattan, onto the Bruckner, over the Triboro Bridge, and finally onto I-95, which, I'll admit, was moving freely. Did we save 17 seconds by listening to Waze? I'll never know. What I do know is I could barely hear a word of either game because Waze kept shouting, "WATCH OUT! Road construction on the right." "WATCH OUT! Police reported ahead."
So if anyone knows a 12-Step program for Waze addicts, please call me. I know a few people who could use it.
"The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank's adventures on his blog, "Beagle Man," on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman. To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.