Driving without a GPS has its benefits

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I was coming out of a convenience store near Sweeny on Highway 35 when I saw an elderly woman in a truck, waving at me. She was determined to get my attention.

The driver was an elderly man, I would guess her husband. They wanted directions.

I can’t tell you the last time I was asked for directions by a man. Guys have a problem with doing it. Or many guys. O.K., most guys.

We prefer finding our way, even if that means searching a little. We tend to act like we know where we are going when we have no clue and are hopelessly lost. And then we just hope to get lucky.

It takes a lot for a guy to ask for directions, which is why it’s always good for a woman to sit next to us. They like asking for directions.

Guys think it is an admission of failure. We are supposed to know stuff like that. But when the rubber meets the road, it’s time to either ask or go around in a circle.

A guy had to invent the GPS – a guy who hates asking for directions. That’s most of us.

And, I was right. I looked it up on the Internet machine.

Roger L. Easton is the principal inventor and designer of the Global Positioning System (GPS). To drive it home, so to speak, that he was the one who invented it, he and his team got a big award for it in 1993.

I don’t know Easton, but I can tell you with certainty that he hated to ask for directions. And all the people who helped him were guys – who, much like me, hate asking also.

The GPS is almost magical. A voice very politely tells us where to go and turn, and the screen lets you see a live-action map. A bunch of satellites communicate with this little device, and all together, they make sure that we don’t take too many wrong turns.

Garbage in, garbage out, though. The other day I must have punched in an address wrong because my GPS politely said “you have arrived at your destination” in the middle of a bridge. Hey, there is no credit union here, just water. But at least the voice didn’t tell me to turn right.

“You look like a man who knows his way around,” the guy behind the wheel said after I approached the couple’s truck. Then the woman took over. “How do we get to Galveston from here?”

That was an easy question. “You’re a long way from Galveston, but on the right road,” I said as I looked around the cab of the pickup truck. I wasn’t worried about my safety. I was looking for their GPS.

The woman held a map in her hands. Yes, a map. Some people still use it, although I don’t know why. It takes too long to look at it, and the wiggly little lines and print are too small.

I was their hero. I gave them simple directions. I have been to Galveston a few times. The woman diligently wrote it all down on the map. Well, it was good for something, anyway.

The man kept talking about stuff, and was hushed by the woman, who had trouble hearing what I was saying. Hey, buddy, I am more important right now. If you want to get to the island, you better hush. I didn’t say that, of course, but it was true.

“It will take you about an hour and a half to get there from here,” I said.

“We have plenty of time,” the guy said. “I just want some of that Gulf shrimp.”

Then I had to give them several places where I knew they would not be disappointed. That took a while. I was dealing only with the woman now, as I gave her a list of restaurants.

Guys don’t write down anything. We think we can just remember it, even though directions by their very nature go in one of our ears and out the other.

I hope they found their way and had a good time. They looked like they were geared up just for that.
“Make a right, and you have arrived at your destination,” I said in a tone of voice similar to GPS voices. They didn’t get the joke.

My last bit of advice: “You guys need a GPS.”

“Nah, then we would not meet nice people like you,” the man said, and they drove away.

But they really need a GPS. Mr. Easton would agree with me.