Dixie Darr

Road to Nowhere

In Books, Lent - Season of Change on March 24, 2017 at 8:10 pm


Lent – Season of Change, Day 21

We’ve all seen the stories about people who followed their GPS directions on a road to nowhere, getting stranded and coming close to losing their lives.

I’ve never used a GPS and have no plans to acquire one. I know. Sometimes I’m shockingly old fashioned. Or maybe I’m just old. The thing is, I really love maps. When I first started driving (over 50 years ago!) my dad would sit me down with one of those intricately folded maps that gas stations used to hand out for free and show me how to get wherever I was going. I still do that except now I use Google maps—not their frequently weird directions, just the map—to plot out my path.

Google maps are amazing. I especially like focusing in from the map to the earth view to the street view. That sure wasn’t available on the old gas station maps. See? I’m not anti-technology. If those people who got lost by blindly (and I don’t use that word lightly) following the disembodied voice on their phone had just looked at a map, they might have noticed they were being led astray.

Some of my favorite maps are of cities, like New York or San Francisco, which show how the parts of the city fit together. I also love books, like Jan Karon’s Mitford series, that provide maps of their fictional towns.

In her book, A Field Guide To Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit, prefers paper maps. She says, “Maps are ubiquitous in one sense, and completely missing in another. A lot of younger people don’t own maps and atlases and don’t have the knowledge a map gives you. We call things like MapQuest and Google Maps on your phone interactive… but are they? Are they interactive? It’s a system that largely gives you instructions to obey. Certainly, obedience is a form of interaction. (Maybe not my favorite one.) But a paper map you take control of — use it as you will, mark it up — and while you figure out the way from here to there yourself, instead of having a corporation tell you, you might pick up peripheral knowledge: the system of street names, the parallel streets and alternate routes. Pretty soon, you’ve learned the map, or rather, you have — via map — learned your way around a city. The map is now within you. You are yourself a map.”

And there you have it. The real reason I don’t like GPS: I don’t like anybody telling me what to do.

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