Thursday, October 11, 2018

Off Course

I've never been a fan of Sat Navs in cars.  In the past, when traveling as a passenger in cars where the driver was using one, I wasn't impressed.  One colleague in particular had a Sat Nav which seemed determined to misdirect him at every opportunity.  I remember it once telling us that we had reached our destination when we were in the middle of a busy junction.  We'd passed the turning for our destination about a mile previously.  I had pointed this out at the time but the Sat Nav, apparently, was never wrong.  Except when it was - this one had a habit of telling you to make a turn when you had already passed the turning.   Not terribly helpful.  but that was back in the days when the devices still had novelty value and took the form of those boxes you had to attach to the windscreen with a sucker.  Things have moved on.  Nowadays, just about every smartphone incorporates a similar function.  Something I'd pretty much forgotten until this afternoon when I had to go to an area I wasn't familiar with.  I knew that employing my usual modus operandi of memorising directions from a map, then having to stop frequently to check the map as I started to doubt my memory, it would take me an age to get there and involve several unwelcome detours as I misremembered things and went off course.  So, I used the Sat Nav app on the phone.

To my surprise, it actually worked and got me there without irritating me too much.  I kept having those doubts that I was on course, though and was several times tempted to second guess the phone.  But I didn't and everything was OK.  Coming back, I decided to dispense with its services as I was sure that I could retrace the route in reverse.  I couldn't and ended up taking a detour before stumbling on a different route.  I'm still not sold on Sat Navs, though. They have limited use for me as, like many of us, I tend to drive the same old roads, day in, week out, so that I know them like the back of my hand. But, even more than that, I like maps too much.  When I say map, I don't mean the electronic type, but physical maps, printed on paper.  Most of all, I like map books, the ones designed for motoring.  There's just something about them.  They bring a certain romance and mystery to driving - you can never be entirely sure how their two dimensional representation of any given area will translate into actual three dimensional reality.  Indeed, that's part of the fun of navigating with a map book - seeing how everything really looks as you follow a route.  I remember driving through Ireland navigating from a map book, with the intriguing names and symbols on the maps usually revealed to be something even more marvelous than we could have imagined. And all those odd detours as we misread it or took wrong turnings, often turned into the unexpected highlights of the trip, as we stumbled across some fantastic sights and experiences,  So, long live the physical map!



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