My husband bought himself another new toy recently – a GPS navigation system for the car. We've just had a two week break in the city and he's had lots of fun putting in the place we’re setting off from and the place we’re going to and seeing the route plotted for him. We saw more of the city than we’ve ever seen before, mainly because it kept getting us lost.
I’ve nicknamed it Siobhan. At first, it had an American accent; not a bad voice, but she kept telling us that we had to turn ‘so-many yards’ ahead. Being used to metres, that became a bit confusing, so P changed it to a lovely Irish lady, who tells us to go ‘aroi-und the roi-undaboi-ut’ very sweetly. However, she will insist on telling us to take a right turn when the sign very clearly says ‘No Right Turn’ or she’ll say ‘for the next eight hundred metres, stay in the right lane’ and then suddenly say, ‘in one hundred metres take the exit on the left’. That might be enough warning when you’re on a dual carriageway, but on a five-lane freeway in peak-hour traffic – no way, Siobhan.
There are two other minor problems with Siobhan. One is that she is very delicate and refuses to go along an unsealed road. So, for example, when P tried to plot the shortest route to the city from the farm, which we know involves going along a local unsealed road, she gave a longer route. He pressed ‘alternate route’ and kept pressing ‘alternate route’, trying to get the route we knew to be shortest, but she was ready to take us via the south coast, a trip of 1100 km - ten times the usual distance - rather than go along the dirt road.
The other problem is that she doesn’t remind the driver to keep his brain turned on while he’s using it. I’m sure we would not have got lost half as often, if P had actually thought about what Siobhan was telling him to do. He followed her instructions faithfully (as long as it was legal); even when going to places we’d been a hundred times before. Now I have absolutely no sense of direction, but even I knew we were going in the opposite direction to where we wanted to be. But what do I know? I’m only the wife who has to turn the map book around.
What I’d really like is for someone to invent a GPS system for writers. Just imagine. You could put in the beginning of your story, put in the ending and ask it to plot the ‘most interesting and exciting’ route:
“At the next chapter, an army of Mrogs appears over the horizon, just in time to save your hero from the wicked King of Gloop.”
“Have your antagonist suffocate under a giant fungus and your protagonist marry the one-legged princess - and you have reached your destination.”
Now that toy I really could appreciate.