Imagine driving down a multi-lane road full of cars. Everyone is tailgating, if you are to use the American space-boundary standards. Cars are changing lanes at a rate that leaves you with the impression that they might not be aware that the lane lines are there and they don’t know what a straight line is. Sometimes they seem to find a lane where you weren’t aware one existed. Vehicles turn from any lane in the road. When a left turn is being maneuvered, say from a single left turn lane into a one lane road, another car often comes up along side and finagles its way to turn first. Scooters appear out of no where, squeezing between waiting cars and merging buses, frequently unconcerned that they have ‘slipped’ into the lane of oncoming traffic, also driving within centimeters of the myriads of pedestrians and bicyclists who are crossing with the walk signal.
Now imagine that you don’t know where you are going for about 3 hours, the very street patterns are unusual to you… oh, wait! There aren’t any patterns to the street layouts…. The street names tend to all sound the same, if they even happen to be in more than Chinese characters, and the buildings and signs along the roads certainly all look the same. If you just saw a 7-Eleven, all it means is that you are in Taiwan somewhere. There is one on every block. The maps beyond a tourist highway map are all in Chinese and don’t really help if you miss a turn. If a map pretends to show the lane and alley network, don’t believe it.
Did we miss a turn? you ask! After all, we have a top-of-the-line GPS device in the car. We just have to follow ‘her’ directions, right? Okay, what if she (I’ve named her MINDI – My Island Navigational Directional Instrument) says to keep left in 400 meters? Does she warn you that 3 of the left lanes are left turn only lanes, one lane splits off to the right, and only two lanes in the middle ‘keep left?’ Does ‘keep left’ always mean the same thing when you visually see the road? Is it a turn, a curve, a ‘Y?’ Did she mention that at certain times of day you can’t actually do that on that section of road?
Okay, so we missed a few turns. The time it took MINDI to inform us varied, often leaving us wondering whether or not we had followed directions. Sooner or later, though she said, “Recalculating” in the tone of a tired, but patient robot nanny. There was also the consideration that she can’t tell where we are when on the lower portion of double freeways or any tunnel like location, so is disconcertingly quiet. One could wonder if she heard us complaining of her methods or non-emotional monotone and was taking silent revenge.
In the dark, she can see, but we can’t. She doesn’t give directions any sooner or add the benefit of landmarks. (Hey, there’s a 7-Eleven!) We are totally at her mercy until we reach the vicinity of Greg’s route home. Then he ignores her because he knows her tricks in this neighborhood. Here he can just concentrate on the lunacy of the other people on the road.
In all honesty, we couldn’t have gone on the trip without her. We appreciate her, we really do! But you’ll have to excuse us for our wild-eyed laughing when she next says, “Recalculating.”