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Where am I?

Where am I?

Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 8:01 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt

The world’s gone plum crazy. Yes, I know that only old people say that. I’m old.  Old and proud of it.
Today’s story begins at a large retail facility (use your imagination). My husband and I were near the check-out counters searching for a road atlas before our big journey to the Northeast. We remember the days when there were racks of road atlases available at several locations throughout the store, especially in the busy summer travel season. 
I cheerfully asked an associate, “Don’t you have any of those big colorful road atlases?”
“Uh, there may be a few over near books.”
“We really want to find one before we leave on our big vacation.”
“You don’t have a GPS unit?”
OK. For those of you not “up with the times.” Let me explain what this 20-something understood about life. If you want to go somewhere new, you don’t have to be able to read a map or have any sense of direction. You just have to tell a little black machine where you WANT to go and trust the machine to tell you EXACTLY how to get there. You type into the GPS machine that you want to go to Bar Harbor, Maine. The machine already knows you’re in Dresden, Tenn., (don’t even ask). SO, the machine says, “Great! No problem! I will tell you exactly how to go to Bar Harbor, Maine, and I will be happy doing it!” No, not really. The machine just says, “calculating.” When the machine says “calculating,” it means that in less than 60 seconds it will know exactly how to get you from Dresden, Tenn., to Bar Harbor, Maine. It can even tell you about a Mexican restaurant at Exit 276 in Virginia (again, don’t ask). Here’s the weird part. You can be a complete geographical idiot and still be successful on your journey. You can think that Providence, R.I., is just southeast of Birmingham, Ala., and it doesn’t matter. As long as you go left when the machine says, “go left” and as long as you merge right when the machine says, “merge right,” you will eventually find yourself in Bar Harbor, Maine. 
We do have a GPS unit and we’ve been wildly happy with it. But we don’t want our children to think that one gets to Maine by just turning left and right. We want them to be able to read a map and see how it all works together. So, back to the conversation at the check-out counter. “Yes, we do have a GPS unit. But we want our children to actually follow a map and see where we’re going. We don’t want them to be one of those people who believes Montana is just south of Texas.”
We eventually found a road atlas that day. We tried to get our boys to study it as we traveled but they didn’t have much interest. Welcome to 2010. They were much more interested in asking the GPS unit for the location of the nearest Dairy Queen. That’s OK. I’m still glad we bought the atlas. I frequently pulled it out just to look at all the little blue lines and tiny exit markers that represented our journey. It also pleasantly reminded me of my own childhood … when a worn-out road atlas was our ticket to the world.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website lisasmartt.com.
Published in The Messenger 7.28.10

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