Judy Elliott: GPS 'Marietta' the other woman, or road to nowhere?
by Judy Elliott
Columnist
July 11, 2010 12:00 AM | 995 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the South, where school once began and then shut down for cotton picking, we are past the half-way mark of school vacations.

But, in other parts of the country, parents and couples are just beginning to pack books for beach reading and throw blankets in the car for nights in the mountains.

For families and others, driving to vacation destinations, portable navigation systems are technology along for the ride.

My husband, Paul, landed his son's GPS device when a more sophisticated version came on the market. The original model has a suction cup, meant to grab the windshield and stay put while graphics of highways and byways appear on a screen and a voice advises where to turn and when.

Paul is taken with his new talking navigation system, but we can't seem to get the hang of it.

The suction device gives way as we back out of the drive and the GPS box falls to the floorboard.

We try again.

Finally, we maneuver the little marvel to a place of staying power on the dashboard and motor on.

Paul named his technology co-pilot, "Marietta," not for our home city, but for one of my oldest friends, a woman I've known 50 years.

The flesh and blood Marietta is the only female I can name who pores over road maps and figures mileage.

She is not above trying a short cut if it looks good on paper.

A couple of years ago, we hooked up with Marietta in Tennessee for a road trip to New York City. Paul was thrilled because she is good company and I am notorious as a lousy mileage calculator. Hand me a map, ask me to add up little black numbers, written next to lines, (supposedly roads) and I am at least 50 miles off on how far we must drive to find gas.

Not Marietta.

Sitting in the back seat of our car, she unfolded state maps and kept up a running commentary on bypasses and interstates, on distances to nearest towns. She was right on the money every time.

In contrast, I find "Marietta," the GPS model, a tad bossy. Her recorded voice grates on my nerves. When we err and she has to "recalculate," she sounds like an irritated robot to me.

And here's the other thing. We balance GPS "Marietta" on the car dashboard and turn her on when we KNOW where we're going. Once, I commented on this strange happening. Paul's answer was he liked to muse on her satellite scoutings. Hmmmm!

The other day, I read an account of a man whose wife complained he chose to ride in his car alone, soothed by "the dulcet tones of the automated voice system."

If he has a crush on his GPS woman, he is definitely listening to a more soothing litany of directions than we hear from "Marietta."

Until I started this rant on GPS "Marietta," I had no idea one company offers 50 available voices, ranging from "American Jill" to "Espanol Paulina" to inform us we have arrived at our destinations.

There are also male voice options. Yet men, notoriously cranky when driving directions are suggested by a living, breathing female, still seem to prefer a woman's voice to guide them home.

There are those who believe a recorded woman's voice, sharing her road smarts, bodes well because she can't respond, argue it's her way on the highway or sigh deeply when a husbandly wrong turn makes her late for the party.

I've done my share of sighing, and there have been moments of tense trip togetherness when my advice: "I think we should have turned back there" was ignored.

So, I admit GPS "Marietta" may have a claim on road trip spousal harmony. Still, she does drone on, displaying her navigational superiority.

Now, suppose we could tune in Robert Redford, sharing mileage updates from the dashboard?

There's a guy whose "recalculating" instructions would sound like traveling mercies.

Judy Elliott is an award-winning columnist from Marietta.
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