Make the Next Legal U-Turn

Every time I stop at a red light, my GPS thinks I’ve fallen off the face of the earth.

Disappeared. Gone. Vanished. Bye-bye.

Worse, it tries to correct the problem of my disappearance by telling me to do random things.

“In 500 feet, turn left on Maple Wood Drive.”

“In one mile, go straight on Lexington Boulevard.”

“In a half mile, make the next legal U-Turn.”

That last one is the clincher: It’s always telling me to take the next legal U-turn (heavy emphasis on “legal”: don’t hop the median, my lost puppy dog).

All of which is endearing. Sort of like a panicked parent, just spouting words to wallpaper over a problem they cannot make go away.

Like night-time emissions. Or joining an opposing political party. (Oh good God, make the next legal U-turn!)

Then, of course, there are the times when it’ll just throw its hands up in the air and say, “GPS Signal Lost.” Well thanks. Thanks for trying.

Sometimes this is legitimate, like when I’m traveling through a winding mountain road at midnight with only my headlights and the stars to guide me (thanks for abandoning me on roads like this, GPS. Right before I enter into the film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre).

Other times it is not legitimate, like when I’m cruising around on the Beltway (nobody ever just cruises on the Beltway, but I digress). GPS signal lost? Last time: You’re out of a job, buddy!

(Yeah, right. I’m dependent on you, GPS, so you’ll never be out of a job…)

My favorite, though, is when it is actively leading me to the middle of nowhere and I, like the slavish, devoted, directionally inept slave that I am, follow its directions with relish. Even though I am fully aware that the geography around me is changing, and there is no way there is a Starbucks nestled in between this burned-out, abandoned shed on my right, and that nest of vultures picking apart a bleeding carcass outside a one-pump gas station six miles down the road to my left.

Still, I follow its directions, until it says, “Your destination is on the right.” Until I’m literally being ripped apart by an army of marauding rhinos and the screen happily declares, “You have arrived!”

It’s the kind of awful and hilarious thing that characterizes Millennial life in this, the year of our Lord, 2015.

I once was trying to find a Target somewhere between the Boondocks and East Jesus Nowhere, and it literally took me to an abandoned lot and a fence, with a sign and the sharpied word, “target.”

“Your destination is on the right,” it cooed. Ha ha, GPS. Good joke. Seriously, where did you hide my dignity?

Worse was when I was trying to arrive at a nephew’s baptism, and instead of taking me to the church, the GPS took me to a horse farm, where one lone majestic horse was galloping along a snow bank.

“You have arrived,” she said (the GPS, I should clarify). And I guess, in a way, I had. I couldn’t have been more thrilled if a literal unicorn had skated across the hood of my car. More thrilling, I suppose, would have been getting to the baptism on time (upon contacting the church, they happily informed us that the GPS thought that’s where they were located for some reason. Hoorumph, ha-ha, where’s your messiah now, Michael?)

That’s what gives modern life personality, you might say. When stuff doesn’t work. It’s why we were all convinced by the original Star Wars trilogy, but not the prequels.

I raged last month about sensors in bathroom stalls, and I’m raging now about GPS. Why? I seem like some awful, full-mustached Ron Swanson trying to get off the grid, but don’t misunderstand me: I love my GPS.

It feels like a pet to me now. Like a mischievous tamagotchi that I don’t have to feed. That usually gets me where I need to go but sometimes takes me to the backdoor of a violent gangland member’s house (maybe because I’ve never fed it, maybe because it shares a sense of humor with Bugs Bunny).

It’s like those Sour Patch commercials. Sometimes they’re sweet. (“Yay, you made it to the wedding on time!”)

Other times sour. (“This isn’t the emergency room, GPS, and you should know that.”)

Consider this a snapshot (sidebar: when I tried to write “snapshot”, my fingers literally formed the word “snapchat,” and that’s more a sign of the times than this entire article). The kind of thing you might dump into a time capsule.

Kids of the future, you want to know what it was really like to drive in 2015? Let Grandpa Michael tell you.

Sure, I could lie to you. I could say the GPS knew where the police were hidden, and told you how to avoid them (“In a quarter mile, drive the actual speed limit, sucker.”) Wish I could tell you they’d let you know the speed limit, or how high over you might be going.

God, I wish I could tell you cars drove themselves, but that ain’t the truth.

Why, young whippersnapper, you want the truth? Want to know what it was like? Well then, have your goofiest, most practical-joke-loving fraternity brother ride shotgun with you to Hooters. Let him direct, and then squeal with glee when you actually end up in the mouth of a volcano. Dying. That’s right: He’s got that devilish glint in his eyes, and he’s saying, “Your destination is on the — ” right before his mouth fills up with liquid hot magma.

Okay. So driving life in 2015 isn’t quite like that. But it ain’t the Jetsons either.

That’s what gives modern life personality, you might say. When stuff doesn’t work. It’s why we were all convinced by the original Star Wars trilogy, but not the prequels. In the originals, all the ships seemed to be falling apart, covered in gasoline, clunky, and rusting.

The newer ones were so shiny, so impeccable. A perfect, glossy, high-def utopia where nothing ever broke down.

“It’s because, before the Evil Empire took over, everything was perfect!” those movies tried to make us believe, like some kind of communistic propaganda picture.

But! I cry. Sometimes things fall apart.

Pinch me, I must be dreaming, this can’t be real — is how I feel when I pull up to an actual, honest-to-God Target.

I park, and my GPS says, “Make the next legal U-turn,” and I happily know this is real life. My GPS has character. All is right with the world.

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