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"Shorts, Outtakes and Rants"

Most weeks I write a column for my paper; occasionally my daughter writes one. Usually they're focused at local issues, but every now and then I come up with one that I think Spearfish Lake Tales readers would find interesting, so I post them on the Spearfish Lake Tales Message Board. Since I've been neglecting "Shorts, Outtakes and Rants" recently, I decided to repost a few of them here, like this one. I hope you enjoy it! -- Wes


October 14, 2014

Someone recently gave my wife a GPS system. She's used it a little, but I haven't very much, since I rarely drive anywhere these days when I don't know where I'm going because I've been there before. Oh, once in a while I will go to a race track I've never been to before and I have to glance at a map, but that's pretty rare.

The other day I had to drive her car up to a town I'll call Flatburg. I was by myself, so I thought I'd give the GPS a fair trial. Now, I know how to get to Flatburg. I've known it for fifty years or more, so it wasn't as if I really needed the help. To get to Flatburg, you drive north up the highway until you get to the interstate, go west, and wait until you get to the sign that says "Flatburg." Very simple. Even a child could do it. Right.

I managed to get the thing turned on somewhere north of town on the highway. That's something I don't recommend trying to do while you're driving by yourself, by the way. Almost as soon as I had it on, a girl's voice told me to turn right on a small dirt road.

"You're crazy," I yelled at the stupid machine. "Why would I want to go down a dirt road a mile out of the way when where I'm going is right ahead of me on the highway?"

So, I ignored it. After I passed the dirt road, in a rather snotty voice the machine said, "Recalculating," but in a tone I took to mean, "Why didn't you listen to me the first time, stupid?"

In the next five miles or so it managed to keep from sending me down every cross road I passed, but after that it didn't get a thing right. Not once. I would have shut the stupid thing off, except I sort of wanted to see just how bad it was going to be. The answer was "not merely bad, but downright awful."

The dumb machine tried to send me off course at every intersection we came to. Every one! Once it tried to send me down a road that was abandoned when I was a kid. You might have been able to get down it in a Jeep with four-wheel drive and a chainsaw. Another time it tried to get me off at an intersection that never existed with a road that didn't cross.

By now, I was laughing at every wrong intersection, sometimes shouting things like "You @#$%^&* idiot!" at the machine. (Yes, I talk to machines. I've always done it. Get over it.)

It did get the exit from the interstate at Flatburg correct -- but only because the dumb machine had been trying to get me off the interstate at every intersection from the highway onward. That counts as a "little boy who cried wolf" problem. Even that didn't count, since as soon as I was on the side road, it tried to get me to go back east on the interstate.

It did miss trying to send me down a few wrong side streets once I was in Flatburg, but only a few. I finally hit a point at an intersection where my destination was clearly in sight in the block to the left. You guessed it: it sent me to the right.

Now, my son-in-law has pointed out that the machine may have inadvertently been set to the wrong destination. I don't think so; I had it set for a destination that was already on the machine and there weren't a lot of choices.

I will say the machine was pretty good about telling me where I was. Telling me how to get where I wanted to go, it was abysmally, hysterically wrong. So, I learned something from that: don't trust GPS directions. I mean, I knew where I was going, so I knew it was wrong. But what if I didn't know where I was going?

I may be old-fashioned and cantankerous, but I think I'll stick with paper maps, thank you.

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