Lady of the Lak-eee

I’ve never had a great sense of direction. One of the reasons I loathe shopping malls is the not-completely-unfounded fear that I’ll fail to find the exit and be doomed to consume until eternity.

That’s not to say I don’t have a rough idea both of where I am and where I’m going. Over the past few months, I’ve managed to navigate “snail” (my Isuzu motorhome/mobile office) more than 8000kms to a lengthening series of largely planned destinations. But the means of getting there can often be somewhat less than direct.

Now that’s all changed, thanks to my new friend – NavLady.

She is unremittingly precise. Not only does she know just where we are, she can tell me the shortest, fastest, easiest, and most economical ways to get to the next destination. This being New Zealand where topography and population density allow little choice, these, sadly for her, don’t differ much.

The reality is that after an initial flurry of instructions about turning left, right, and taking the second exit at the roundabout, she gets to the bit where there’s nothing more to say. “Drive 234kms….” Silence.

I worry she’s getting bored. Perhaps she’s dropped into a permanent coma? Nope. It turns out she patiently marks off each 20kms worth of progress. It’s kinda comforting to know a bunch of distant satellites are coordinating their efforts to keep track.

I wasn’t a great fan of GPS navigation until I had to drive my daughter’s car back home from the Sydney hospital in which she’d narrowly avoided an emergency Caesarean. In a strange city, at night, after what had been a long and traumatic day, the steady stream of computer-generated instructions were not just helpful but heart warming.

So I was open to the possibility of investing in one just as my credit card use hit a high enough reward-points tally to redeem a GPS system for “free”. Although I lacked the patience to sit through her tutorial, NavLady and I got off to a good start. She took me unerringly to a friend’s address in Christchurch when time was short and I had a plane to catch.

Over subsequent weeks and kilometres, our relationship has become more complex. There are times when I rebel against her precision, ignore her suggestions and gleefully tot up the number of times I can force her to say: “When possible, perform a U-turn.”

Perform! I picture “snail” pirouetting gracefully across the gravel, wing mirrors held wide, wheels spinning.

But even when I disturb her equilibrium by programming in one destination then heading for another, NavLady can come up trumps. Patiently checking other options, she often finds a shortcut that steers me back on the original course. For a while, her voice sounds just a bit smug.

NavLady, however, has one weakness – sometimes irritating, often hilarious. I like to think it reveals her inner klutz. She is pronunciation challenged.

When she first told me to turn on to the TeCAPo-Twizzle highway, I wondered if we were in the same country. Even apparently simple stuff can come out totally mangled “Drive 400 metres to LaKEEview Terrace.”

I guess if you have no concept of “lake”, you don’t get that it’s “lake view”. Words are no more than a random collection of syllables strung together using the most prevalent pronunciation of each.

It could be catching.

Just as regular txting has an un42n8 impact on normal spelling, I fear NavLady will gradually re-name our geographic reference points.

Twizzle could definitely stick.

About vjayne

I'm a writer / photographer usually based on Waiheke Island in New Zealand but currently traveling the country in "snail" - my mobile home and office. Along the way, I'm telling stories about the places I see or people I meet and building up a beautiful library of photos - of New Zealand's coastline and mountains, its walking tracks and wildlife. I'm happy to supply illustrated stories to New Zealand and offshore publications. My work background includes editing business and lifestyle magazines, crafting features on topics ranging from management and marketing to frogs and fashion, creating organisational narratives and promotional literature. Please visit my website for more information.
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