Today was a tough day. I had no idea it would end up being a hard day because it began with a good deal of anticipation. I had the car to myself, my GPS was in the passenger seat, and I had all day to go anywhere within driving range of where I was currently living.
I stepped outside into the 0 degree weather and was pleased that snow wasn’t falling and the road didn’t look iced over. So far; so good. My plan was to drive to Mainz, Germany. Should take me under two hours, I’d have time to do a bit of sight seeing, shopping, and lunch “on the economy” as they say on the garrison.
But troubles started nagging me before pulling away from the hotel. For some reason I couldn’t fathom, the TomTom wasn’t talking to me. I’d used it to get home the day before, so why wasn’t it working now? Feeling somewhat confident in the general direction I was headed, I eased the rental car away from its parking spot with drifted snow piled in the shape of a rectangle and took off anyway.
Ten minutes and seven miles later, the TomTom still wasn’t voicing any directions and I began to wonder exactly what was wrong. As I looked down at the small device with the blue line heading off the top of the screen but with no voice to speak of, a primal fear began to surface. Primal for me, and from what I’d observed, for many people of my generation and older: how do I work this damn gismo?
I’d programmed it quite nicely yesterday and today it looked at me blankly, as though I was an insipid old lady without one hair brained idea about how to work a GPS in Central Europe. If I didn’t pull off the road, I’d be lost in another five miles.
To make matters worse, with only two weeks in Germany, I was already quite familiar with the fact that if I pulled off the road, there was no logical (from my perspective) means of simply exiting the off-ramp, going over a bridge, and taking the auxiliary on-ramp to put me back on the road in the opposite direction to get me home. Wasn’t gonna happen!
I pulled off the road. Tears welled up and began to fall before I put the car into neutral. The pressure behind my eyelids was the weight of a lake being held back by a damn with a conspicuous finger hole in the center. Soon that damn was going to let loose and the tears would be impossible to stop.
“Dammit! I worked this yesterday. What the fuck is wrong with it?” I didn’t usually resort to such language so quickly. The fact that those words came without any hesitation whatsoever, told me that I was under significant pressure I hadn’t yet acknowledged and that the TomTom was going to get the brunt of the blame.
“Don’t do it, Jess. You don’t have to let loose so easily. If you resort to tears, it’ll make it harder to figure out what to do,” the angel seated on my left soldier whispered in my ear.
Reaching for Kleenex in my purse, I wiped the tears away and picked up the TomTom.
“You’re seated in a parking pull out on a two lane highway that isn’t very busy. You have time to sit and figure this out,” again the angel spoke gently.
I began to press the buttons on the screen. “Back to the menu, then to ‘Search’ and plug in where I want to go.” No go, it didn’t work. I started the process again. Did I put my home location first or the location of where I was headed? I tried both. I switched the order and tried it again. Nothing. The TomTom was silent. By now I’d punched every button and arrow at least half a dozen times and in half a dozen different sequential order. Still nothing.
Tears welled again. What was it about technological objects that reduced me to fear and loathing within minutes? Fuck it! I would just go home and spend the day in the hotel.
In my mind, I picked up the TomTom, rolled down the window, and heaved it into the snow. In the car, I unplugged the damn thing and thrust it onto the passenger seat. That little black box wasn’t going to get the better of me!
Within 10 minutes I was parked outside my lodging again ready to give up and call it a day at 10:37 am, Sunday morning.
“One more time, just try it one more time,” the angel urged soothingly.
I picked up the TomTom and plugged in the address to the hotel. I plugged in “Mainz” and chose the first destination listed as my destination, making sure it wasn’t “Mainz” in Lithuania, Greece or any other Central European countries with a “Mainz” listed. I pressed the icon for a steering wheel (I hadn’t seen this before had I?) and a female voice murmured, “Take the first left in 100 meters.”
Never had an automated voice sounded so sweet!
Immediately, I wondered what address I’d put in first, apparently correctly, to allow the TomTom to do it’s job, but I had no clearer idea at the moment than an hour ago when I’d been seated in the same spot before taking off for the day.
“That angel won’t let me down. When I need to return home, she’ll be there for me.” I eased the car into first gear and resumed my journey for the day.
Fifteen minutes later I was on the Autobahn driving in the opposite direction from where I’d driven earlier. “Maybe TomTom doesn’t work if you’re driving away from your destination,” I pondered. “Or, maybe, I needed to put in an exact location on either end for it to program the distance in-between,” I surmised.
It mattered little at the moment. The sun was shining gloriously, the snow in the fields looked like a winter wonderland, particularly when a deer bounded across an open field, and the TomTom was seated silently in my lap with “51 Miles” indicated as the distance to my destination. I was driving 97 mph and the radio was cranked all the way up. Life was wonderful and beautiful!
I was pleased not to have given in to my self-pity. If I had, I’d be in the hotel room right now, crying a river of tears about my ineptitude with mechanical things.
Instead, I was flying across Germany basking in the winter beauty with German lyrics belting out from the car stereo, that I swear, sounded like English. Plus, I had absolute confidence that the angel on my shoulder would guide me home at the end of the day.