By Jody Worsham
All rights reserved for air fare.
As I was filling the gas tank on the rental car, I took the time to program the GPS I called "Tom" before continuing on to Florida. Tom, like the rental car, was designed, manufactured, and shipped by foreign midgets with tiny fingers. It was impossible to type in a location with my fingers without creating locations in Zimbabwe or local destinations with dyslexic spellings. In desperation I used the end of a ball point pen. Even with the correct American spellings, Tom indicated there were no such locations. I tried typing with a foreign accent. That seemed to work. I also had a road atlas as a back- up. The gas pump burped after depositing ten gallons into the tank and I was off on my adventure.
As soon as I left the gas station, "Tom" said "500 feet turn left." I knew that couldn't be right so I continued. Again "200 feet turn left. 100 feet turn left. After one quarter mile turn left. At any of the next six intersections feel free to turn left. Ok, turn left or right, I don't care."
I think I have a trust issue with Tom or maybe it's a commitment issue. I hear what he says but I get contradicting advice from humans, one being my niece who had said to turn right after six miles, then left. She was right about the location of the trunk button in the foreign made car, so I followed her advice. After backtracking six miles and following the road signs which were in English, I finally turned left. Tom said "Finally!"
After traveling for an hour, it was time to stop for a quick snack. I didn't bother checking in with Tom. He'd just tell me I didn't need the calories, the next gym was 162 miles away, or my stretch jeans had reached their limit. I looked for the familiar golden arches or a sign with the golden arches. That's when I discovered signs can be wrong or else I am directionally challenged and turned the wrong way, both possibilities. After a detour of four miles, I settled for Burger King and got back on the interstate.
Now my confidence in road signs and the GPS were shaken. I crossed the state line and stopped at the Tourist Information Center where real local humans could converse with me in something close to English. My ears cut through the heavy accent and listened carefully as the helpful tourist human marked the paper map with a yellow highlighter. "Y'all can't miss it." Since I was traveling alone I could only assume she meant me and Tom; then I realized we were still in the South so I replied in my native tongue "Thank ya, podner!""
At this point I have a l993 Road Atlas that may or may not be up to date, a single printed sheet with a yellow highlighter marking city streets, and Tom who may or may not be speaking to me. The mall I was trying to get to evidently hadn't been built in l993 and Tom and the highlighted map did not agree so I sort of drove in ever tightening loops until I saw a Target sign along with a Dillard's, Starbucks, and other assorted signs testifying to the possible existence of a mall.
After several cups of Starbuck's frozen coffee and before my credit card sent up a red flag, it was time to head for my friend's house. I studied the map. I typed in the address on Tom. I guess he was still mad because he told me no such street existed. I typed in the community where my friend said she lived. That did exist so I committed to giving Tom another chance. This time I would ignore the map and listen to Tom.
When Tom said "Left turn ahead", I turned left. Of course I was so concerned about doing exactly what Tom said, I forgot that he gives you instructions then a 500 foot warning before you are to actually turn left. Had I realized that, I would not have been going the wrong way on a one way street. I safely dodged a couple of cars whose drivers still gave me that friendly universal one finger salute. I pulled over to the curb just as my cell phone rang. It was my friend. She stayed on the phone with me and guided me street by street until I arrived at her house.
I parked the rental car in her drive-way and as I reached to unplug the GPS, I swear I heard electronic giggling followed by "You have just left the Twilight Zone."
Next time, I'm going to fly.