I traveled to Gaithersburg MD today – a trip that includes Amtrak to Washington, DC and then driving from Union Station to Gaithersburg. The train was coming into Philadelphia when I realized I had left my GPS back in my car in Newark. Anxiety set in. I have not been able to find my own way from Union Station to Gaithersburg in the three previous times I’ve traveled there. No problem, I thought. I’ll just grab a Garmin from National Car Rental. But no, when I arrived at the counter in Washngton, they were out of GPS units.
Out of desperation, I asked for a map. A map. A piece of paper with writing too small to read and creases impossible to refold. As I exited the parking lot, I reached my first point of indecision. Left or right? Not even Mother Nature was cooperating, as a foggy rain prohibited my usual backup – the direction of the sun. I knew I needed to go west then north. I took a guess – a 50/50 shot. I drove in a direction that felt like west. My map showed some wonderful landmarks, but neglected to include important information like H Street. Then, I saw a road sign for I-395, which was also on my map. I was feeling more confident.
As I drove away from office buildings and landmarks into a more residential area, I became a little concerned, but I was also on a conference call simultaneously, so I kept driving, knowing eventually I’d hit the Beltway.
Which I did. The southeastern part of the Beltway. Almost directly opposite of where I was supposed to be. So much for my female intuition.
I knew based on the big loop of the Beltway on my map that I was going to be late for my meeting. After calling to make my apologies, I drove through the rain, around Washington, making sure not to take the exit for 95 heading to Baltimore. I arrived thirty minutes late. After the meeting, I Google Mapped my way back to Union Station. With my shorthand directions, I arrived at the National Return lot in 45 minutes with only one wrong turn. It was kind of a Garmin-lite approach.
I am digitized. I can no longer effectively read a map. My GPS has become as valuable to me as my wallet or my cell phone. We often say, “What did we ever do without GPS’s?” I remember the arguments my parents had when my mother’s errant directions landed us in Connecticut when we were supposed to be in Upstate New York. She used a map that we got free from the Mobil station. That’s what we did before the GPS – we got lost and argued.
I don’t mind being dependent upon electronics to guide me through life. I just hate having to remember to take them everywhere.