Friday, December 28, 2007
Mandy, take me to Shea!
There’s a new lady in my life and her name is Mandy.
Except that for the first week we were calling her Mindy.
And sometimes I use her friend Lori, but never their partner, Richard.
And like many other women, she tells me where to go and what to do. And I obey.
Mandy is the computerized voice in the automotive GPS device I got for Christmas.
It’s like the iPod in that after having this treasure for just a couple days I can’t imagine how I survived 43 years without it.
My family already is sick of listening to me extol its glories.
I don’t have a clue how it works. Something about satellites.
All I know is I usually get tense driving from sister-in-law’s house.
It’s waaaay deep in the country and you have to take these little roads once you get off the real streets. And even the real streets aren’t anywhere near civilization. I know this because I don’t see a Panera Bread or Jimmy John’s.
But as we loaded up the car Christmas night for the trip home, the relatives asked if I needed directions back to the highways.
"Heck no," I replied confidently. "Mandy will lead the way."
And sure enough, my new friend navigated through tiny towns and fields right to the I-55 entrance ramp.
Which is not to say everyone is a believer. On that trip to Kris’ house, Mandy told me to make a right turn. I was about halfway into the turn when my father-in-law objected, telling me to take the more familiar route.
To me, this is like a pitcher shaking off a catcher. When Gary Carter called for the curve, Dwight Gooden listened.
My mother-in-law, in the other car, later said. "When we saw you start to turn then spin back, I said, ‘Well, Dad must have overruled Mindy.’"
Somehow Mandy understood that the elders must be obeyed, because once we missed the turn, she simply reconfigured the route and directed us another way.
And somehow, she also knows the location of every restaurant, stadium or other place we designate a "point of interest," or "POI." You can either set it ahead of time to lead you to Quiznos, or wait to see the little fork-and-spoon icon appear on the screen.
I don’t know how Mandy knows these things. And apparently there are knowledge gaps — I won’t call them faults because that would imply Mandy has faults — because the new Starbucks near our house doesn’t appear.
This could be easily solved by simply flashing a Starbucks icon on the screen every other mile or so because, chances are, a Starbucks is either there already or will be there soon.
And she doesn’t just give directions. The screen flashes the speed, how many more miles are left in the trip and roughly how long it will take us to get to the destination.
Supposedly she even makes a mooing sound should I ever be cruising above the speed limit, though we’ve yet to hear the cow.
Picking which computer voice to use was a big decision. Mandy seems to have a slight British accent and for some reason calls Interstates "motorways." Lori has more of a Midwestern sound and a serious tone that seems to say, "Don’t cross me. I know where to go. I have an internal GPS and you routinely take the family on accidental tours of bad neighborhoods."
The company’s Web site said we can download other voices. It describes one as "New York cab driver" that sounds like no one I know. Of course, the last time I was in a New York cab the driver was talking into his Bluetooth and I thought he was talking to me, so I'm not sure how I'd respond to this while driving.
Another voice was John Cleese, but he costs extra. I’m holding out for Rachael Ray. "Did you turn left? Yum-o!"