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Technology wants to be friends!

Hit the road Jack and don't you come back
No more, no more, no more, no more
Hit the road Jack and don't you come back
No more

Ray Charles

Generally, technology provides certain expected benefits. Other benefits appear, totally unexpectedly. As an early adopter of technology, I tried using an automotive navigation system a couple of times. Driving in a large, unknown city can be intimidating, so I like to have some gentle guidance on where to go. Anything more than this level of guidance causes my frontal cortex to freeze up. As you know, numerous people ended up in rivers, lakes and oceans simply following navigation-system directions with no further frontal cortex involvement of their own.

For example, the Waze application allows you to avoid traffic tie-ups, but it expects you to think about what you are doing. For example, their terms of reference include the following exclusion;

You agree and acknowledge that you assume full, exclusive and sole responsibility for the use of and reliance on the service, and you further agree and acknowledge that your use of or reliance on the service is made entirely at your own risk. You further acknowledge that it is your responsibility to comply with all applicable laws (including traffic laws) while using the service.

I rented a car in Toronto along with a nurturing navigation unit without even a cursory review of the terms and conditions. I find the street layouts somewhat intimidating. Where I come from, whenever you have a street, with an overpass on top, iced with a further freeway on top of that, I believe myself in a futuristic metropolis.

The rental agency gently explained how the global positioning system (GPS: god-forsaken poor sap) worked. I later sat in the car while the system accessed the satellites. I believed that they could have been talking, planning or eventually scheming about how they intended to take over the world, starting with me.

My propensity to allow an authority figure to tell me what to do becomes a factor here. I expressed a bit of free will and left the parking lot before the GPS managed to access its cabal of satellites. The cement parking lot seemed to block access. I will remember that for when the machine apocalypse finally comes.

The unit gave me a choice of a nurturing female voice or a big-brother type of male voice. I went with the female voice thinking that I would need more understanding while driving in the big city. The GPS “Gennie” located its conspirator satellites and told me to continue driving forward. Any sort of takeover requires complicity in the subject, so I started to relax. Gennie’s female voice softly directed me to drive downtown and gave me fair warning of upcoming exits, merging highways and veering lefts or rights. She comforted me and appeared to be on my side.

I followed her directions to the letter and found myself between a series of pylons and within an area exclusively for trains. She continued to console me by saying how close I was to my destination. I eventually found an exit to this apparent train trap. The machines showed their cleverness. But just not clever enough.

Time heals all wounds apparently. Rather, stupid never learns. I rented another Gennie when I flew to the west coast. The Victoria airport is at the tip of a peninsula and you have to travel south for 20 miles before you can eventually travel north up the island. I thought with no rail lines around and no stacked concrete freeways, I would be relatively safe.

I wanted to find a slightly shorter route that would hug the coastline and allow me to shoot up north faster. The Victoria rental agency parks its cars outside and the new Gennie found its conspirator satellites easily. Too easily.

I followed the traditional highways down the peninsula, and as I hoped, Gennie got me off the highway quickly. We turned, I say ‘we’ since I thought Gennie and I were off on an adventure of sorts. A safe adventure. More of a Walt Disney type of adventure with guardrails, standard safety features and no lines.

The new route turned out to be far quainter than the traditional highway route. The maximum road speeds became lower than highway speeds. However, one must slow down to appreciate the beauty of the area.

We made another turn down another street. Even quainter, more suburban and slower. However, one must slow down to a crawl in order to read the various historical site signs. Life goes too quickly not to absorb the local flavour.

We made another turn down a gravel road. This area now epitomized quaintness, and at complete stop now, I could even get out and smell the roses without fear of drive-by rose-thorn scratches.

The very short line of stopped cars ahead of me had people inside that appeared to be waiting. Looking ahead, I could now see that the road actually ended up into the ocean. Another car stopped behind me. They cut off my escape route. I admonished myself for being so gullible for falling into another GPS trap. Although this one seemed to be a fairly low-speed trap. A quick mind should be able to figure out an escape.

Perhaps Gennie thought I would be driven by peer pressure to drive my vehicle into the water to drown. I scoped out alternate escape routes.

The best place to start seemed to be the corner store beside me where they sold coffee. And ferry tickets. I realize that Gennie wanted me to take the ferry and not to drive my car into the water. Although this has been known to happen.

I bought a coffee and a ferry ticket while making nonchalant conversation as to the timing of the next ferry. I then squeezed in a further question as to what the weather might be like where we were going with the hope I would find out where we were going. One of the more helpful quaint inhabitants gestured to a far point on the other side of the channel and suggested that whatever I saw across the way would likely be what the weather would be like. His mouth smiled, but I could sense that his eyes suggested “dumb-ass.” I went back to the car.

The ferry ride turned out to be very pleasant, uneventful and short. This gave me a good chance to get out of the car, watch the sea and feel the wind. Having seen the sights, read the historical markers and smelled the roses, I appreciated the new experience. Technology provided these unexpected benefits.

I took the ferry less travelled.