Saturday, August 18, 2012
Saturday, August 11, 2012
A Brit and a Half Lost in OC by Pat & Peter Betts
A Journey of Discovery, Memories and Comparisons
THE BITCH IN THE BOX ©
I’ve always considered myself able to find my way around the UK with the aid of a fairly recent map and a first-class memory. Even my highly critical wife, Pat says I must have studied ‘the knowledge’ because I dodge my way around London corners like a taxi driver. It’s a talent. But Pat, who admits to being geographically impaired, insisted that once we arrived in sunny Orange County, California I must buy a SatNav so we wouldn’t get lost. It was only when we went to Palm Springs to visit a friend and I chose to take Highway 74, that she talked me into it. How was I to know it wound through the mountains for stomach churning hours?
So with my human SatNav wife, we headed to the store where the satellite delight was duly purchased and installed in our car. Because the surface of the dashboard was pebbled, we had to fasten it to Pat’s overhead mirror. This technological wonder came with a somewhat human woman’s voice. She sounded extraordinarily like my schoolteacher in the fourth form at Noel Park Primary. Pat’s daughter Lisa calls her the bitch in the box.
In preparation, I’d read up on the various products and learned that several road accidents have been attributed to SatNav misdirection. One dark night in Exton, Hampshire in 2007 a woman driver following the bitch’s commands went through a railroad crossing not indicated in her system and was hit by a train. After that, the County Council erected a sign warning drivers to ignore their SatNav system and take another route. But on the bright side, that same year a man in Australia successfully overturned a speeding conviction when evidence from a GPS navigational track proved that he didn’t exceed the speed limit. These days even some Golf Carts may have integrated GPS units tailored to certain golf courses, providing interactive course maps and instant readings of distance measurements to the green. Pat, who never likes it if I exceed 60mph, told me with a hint of triumph in her voice that the system would alert me if I were driving above the speed limit - or in the direction to be 'caught' by radar detectors. Was it a threat or a promise?
One system even gives you a choice of voices, mostly humorous but after listening to what sounded like an out-of-work actor lucky to get a voice-over doing a take-off on Woody Allen - I mean, would you really want him to get you where you were going? Now Penelope Cruz would be different. But I’m stuck with the bitch I’ve got, though she may not be able to pronounce some words such as Niguel (Nigell) and calls it Niggle, or Jeronimo Road, which she calls Jerro-Nimmo. Mission Viejo (veeayeho) fares no better as Vee-Joe. I thought we were doing all right and it wasn’t her fault that we got side-swiped on Golden Lantern at Pacific Coast Highway by an Aston Martin. Did the driver’s SatNav tell her to run a red light?
Our friend Ray has a friend who lives in Irvine. “You’ve got to look for a house there,” he advised from his multi-million pound home in Kensington, without suggesting an introduction to this fabled friend. Not sure how rich Ray’s friend was or if Irvine had modestly priced properties, we decided to give it a look and then to take in nearby Costa Mesa. Pat, eager to get her fingers into the act, punched in the directions for our trip with the bitch. The route took us up the freeway to Irvine, side-swiped Costa Mesa and somehow ended up in San Clemente twenty miles away without ever getting off the freeway. “You have reached your destination,” came the cool report.
It seemed Pat had stabbed in a multi-freeway trip with no stops. I decided to turn to a map for the rest of the journey, which thankfully brought us straight back to our little hotel in Dana Point. We never did see Irvine.
The bitch and I were finally getting used to each other until the night she had a nervous breakdown. “No, no!” she thundered out of her box. “I said riiight on Jaeger Drive! Now get ready for a U Turn. Do a Uiee! A Uiee...!” The voice began to panic and I was about to attempt it when I saw it would take me over a cliff!
As I screeched my brakes, the bitch yelled, “Turn right in 200 yards. Left in a third of a mile! Straight ahead! U turn! You turn!” Her voice rose as the instructions came faster and faster. “Three hundred yards turn Left! Turn right! Straight ahead! Are you listening? I said a Youeeee!” shrieked the bitch. I was in a cold sweat.
Then I woke up.