A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE – Feb. 6: Losing connection in Massachusetts

On the job training with a GPS gives a whole new meaning to the term 'adventure tourism'.

Learning to use a GPS at 7:30 in the morning on the Massachusetts Turnpike—now that’s adventure tourism.

It was 4:30 a.m. Midway time and I’d just gotten off the red-eye flight from Seattle. I was in Boston for an east coast memorial service for Special K.

The guy at the car rental counter reassured me that a GPS is easy to use. Just type in the address of your destination and follow instructions.

It sounded almost as easy as having Special K back in the car with me.

I had no idea how to use one—I’d never even been in a vehicle when someone else used one. So after about five minutes of driving and it not telling me anything, I started to get worried. Never mind the fact that I was in the Ted Williams Tunnel under Boston Harbor and the GPS wasn’t doing so well at picking up any satellite signals.

My anxiety only increased when the little screen flashed the message: “Lost connection to power!”

I’d thought I had done everything right at the airport. When I’d typed in my destination I’d even taken the precaution of pressing “Save”. So theoretically all I had to do was push one or two buttons and I’d be back on track.

As it turned out I was back on track to the airport. At least I had a good idea where I should go when I needed to return the car and fly back home the following Thursday.

I found a safe place to pull out of traffic and re-entered the address. Ten minutes later the blasted GPS gave me the “Lost connection to power” screen again. It seems there was a bad connection on the poser cord from the cigarette lighter so I unhooked that, put the address in again and let it run on internal power.

The GPS kept giving me distances to the next turn in kilometres. Meanwhile the odometer was clicking away in miles, so I was kept busy doing conversions in my head. Usually it would give me a couple of warnings about when to expect the next turn. But one time it just out of the blue ordered me to turn right, just as I was driving past the intersection. It was getting to the point I would have welcomed a command from the GPS to pull in to the next phone booth and call a cab. That night I followed Pam’s daughter, Bettina, and her family to the hall. Her husband is a firefighter by training; he followed in his father’s footsteps into the same career. So it was easy to follow them: they had a special license plate with an easy to read “FF” on it. At the end of the evening as we were all leaving I pulled out behind the SUV with the “FF” plates. Five minutes into the drive I get a call on my cell phone but I ignored it because you aren’t supposed to use it while driving. But whoever it was kept calling back—maybe an emergency, getting a call at 11 o’clock at night and all. It was Bettina. It seems I had pulled out behind her father-in-law’s vehicle (who also has “FF” plates) and was heading completely the wrong way.

I finally began to appreciate the GPS as it got me back to the bed I was supposed to sleep in that night.

Take care of someone who loves you ….