You had me at ‘GPS’

You had me at ‘GPS’

My GPS bleeped blearily at me; ‘Low Battery’. Great. Just great. The picture of the little blue car (i.e. me) was covered by a flashing red question mark; indicating that the GPS, like me, also had no idea where we were. I pulled over into a driveway and looked up and down the narrow street. No landmarks jumped out at me, it was dark and devoid of any living creatures. I sighed and metaphorically threw my gloves in. It was time to admit it. I was lost.

I have one of these, I just don't know where I am in it. PHOTO: dixidito/

I’m used to getting lost; I have no internal compass (though in an unrelated note I think I have an internal merry-go-round). My friend Dennis says I “could get lost driving in a circle.” He should know, Dennis is one of the few people that (rather bravely) taught me how to drive – him, my brothers and I had a rather dramatic incident on Glenwood road in Pretoria when I changed to the wrong gear as I reached a busy intersection. The car made a gggaaghaack noise, like a robot throwing up a toolbox. Adrenalin pumped as I stomped on the clutch and jiggled the gear box while shouting “I’m trying! I’m trying!” Anyway, my point is that I’m like a walking Bermuda Triangle, constantly off the radar. Punctuality and sadly, often dignity too are swallowed up as I struggle to find the way to my destination.

But getting lost this time was more humiliating than normal.

For one thing, I was lost in my own suburb. My excuse that I had ‘just moved here’ was wearing thin eight months down the line; actually I was considering moving again in order to renew this excuse. I was probably a mere 2km (or less) away from my flat. Yet I had no idea where I was.

OK, I’ll admit. That was a bit of an exaggeration for dramatic effect.

I kind of knew where I was – I knew how to get home, anyway. The one thing I’ve honed to a fine point since I moved (and I’m kind of proud of this) is my homing instinct. Drop me off anywhere in the City Bowl and sure enough, I’ll find my way to my flat. Kind of like a salmon.

Like this salmon, except alive. And swimming upstream.
Like this salmon, except alive. And swimming upstream. PHOTO: mdid/

Anyway. My shame at getting lost was even more intense because I’ve been to Kelli’s flat before. Many times. See, I knew one, longer route; but the GPS knew a shorter one. And, in a moment of reckless bravado, I decided to try the GPS’s route – but without the GPS.

This was a mistake.

I was now lost in my own suburb, on the way to a place I’d been to before.

I am so not a bug. Bugs can fly.

By the way, the GPS’s power cable had broken. I think I’m allergic to technology, actually. I’ve broken two computer cables, one GPS cable (twice), and three sets of earphones in the past 18 months. It’s bizarre and I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing wrong. Without the cable, the GPS had one bar of battery to get me unlost, for INFINITY.

The thing is, I really need a GPS.

I’m terrible with taking down directions. I start off quite well, with bullet points and everything, but there eventually comes a point where I realised I’ve stopped listening and am just automatically making affirming ‘mm, ok’ noises while doodling. But I decided that desperate times called for desperate measures, and hauled the machine out of the cubby hole when I realised the extent of my situation.

Also, I smsed my best friend Portia, ‘Am driving to a friend’s house, totally lost!’ and she replied, ‘Take out the GPS! Don’t be a hero!’ So I did. And now, here I was, alone in a driveway in the dark with a dying GPS and R1.20 airtime. If there were any people around I would have asked for directions, unlike, as the cliché goes, a man.

I'm worried they won't choose a nice photo for my 'lost' photo. PHOTO: jaqian/

Isn’t that ridiculous? Asking for directions doesn’t make you any less any less manly. And guys, driving around in circles while muttering darkly is not as sexy as you’d think.

My father is where I got (or didn’t get) my sense of direction.

So it’s kind of ironic that he’s really into geochaching now – you know, geochaching, the “enthusiast hobby of locating a treasure somewhere in the world with the help of a GPS-enabled device and GPS coordinates that are listed online” (according to the site). Basically it’s like a treasure hunt, and everyone’s playing. People hide packages, filled with small tokens, all over the world; then leaves clues for the next hunter on the net. With a GPS device you can find the exact co-ordinates, then pursue the treasure with the clues.

Because of this new hobby I spent Women’s Day hunting for teeny treasures in the Pilanesberg with my dad, brothers and step-mom. Geochaching even led us to Paul Kruger’s grave (at night. In the bush. It was spooky.)

I sighed again, my GPS wasn’t going to lead me to a geocache or to Kelli’s apartment. My best bet was to drive home and start again from there. And, with a reluctant, bigger, sigh, that’s exactly what I did.

This article is also published on the Fairlady website.


One thought on “You had me at ‘GPS’

  1. I also have memories of looking for you somewhere on the other side of the center of town, at night, at a petrol station. GPS was designed for you. you are so very funny. Great blog

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