Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

Sometimes GPS is simply too smart for its own good.

Yes, I’ll admit the era of a mapping program with turn-by-turn instructions is wonderful – most of the time. But this week I discovered one major flaw.

We were in Edisto Beach. My son, Mac, and his family were staying in a house not far from the main road and the beach, and we were staying in Wyndham Vacation Resorts. If you’ve been to Edisto, you know that Wyndham is a gated community on the far backside of the beach. Much like Woodside in Aiken, Wyndham has a main gate through which all guests – read that beach-house renters – must drive, and which has a guard to check folks in. At the same time, there is also back gate for homeowners there – with no guard. The back gate is actually really close to the main beach and, in this case, Mac and Joy’s house for the week.

But the secondary gate is only available to homeowners in Wyndham. My guess is you have to have some kind of electronic “key” to open the unmanned gate. In any event, they don’t issue whatever it takes to those folks just renting an abode for a week or two.

So we set out for Edisto as we always do – depending on GPS to give us the blow-by-blow directions from our home all the way to our door in Wyndham.

Isn’t it funny how quickly we all went from dragging out a Rand McNally Atlas to plot out the course of each trip to trusting this bodiless voice in our phones to tell us exactly where to go.

I remember early on in the GPS era that I was certain that voice-in-the-box registered criticism in when you made a wrong turn. In fact, my very first experience with such was on a trip to Anaheim, when North Augusta was a finalist in the All-America City competition. A group of us went out there to compete, and one Sunday afternoon we had some time to do a little sightseeing as a group. We had the GPS programmed for our destination, but we were following a car driven by one of our group who had been there before and who said he knew exactly how to get there. As we ignored the voice trying to tell us where to go in favor of following the leader, I was sure that at each wrong turn (at least wrong in GPS’s artificial brain), the voice would sigh and with gritted teeth (at least that’s what it sounded like to me) say, “Recalculating.” In fact, after about four wrong turns, I was absolutely sure she was about to blow as she said, “Re-cal-cu-la-ting,” dragging the word out for days, it seemed.

(As it turned out, GPS Girl – is that politically incorrect? – was right. She was trying desperately to take us around an area that was congested with a Sunday afternoon Pride parade. We ended up smack dab in the middle of the hundreds of people there marching in the parade, and as a result, the trip was three times as long as it might have been if we had listened.)

So there we were these many years later, fully entrenched in the times of GPS dependence and trusting our GPS British aristocrat (that’s the voice I have on mine, anyway) to guide us well.

And we got to Mac and Joy’s house easily. GPS Guy was right-on with directions to their house.

The trouble began when I listened to GPS Guy in getting from my son’s beach house to our beach house. The voice in my phone directed us to the back gate – the one renters aren’t allowed to use. No matter where I went, GPS Guy insisted I needed to make a U-turn and go back to the same gate.

After several minutes of exasperation, I decided I knew how to get to the main gate and headed that way, ignoring GPS Guy all the way – much to his chagrin. Well, it sounded that way to me.

We found the main gate and, subsequently, our house, unpacked, and then decided to head back to Mac and Joy’s to take a late afternoon jaunt to the beach.

And therein lies the rub – again. We couldn’t get out of the neighborhood. I followed GPS Guy’s instructions and ended up – you guessed it – at the back gate, the locked back gate, the gate that wouldn’t let me out. I drove round and round, until I finally backtracked enough to see a sign for the main gate.

It was not a good beginning to a week that was supposed to de-stress, not re-stress.

So I’m now convinced that there is still a place for an honest-to-God map in this world. If I had a map of the whole Edisto Island, I could have figured out the best way to get to my destination with a view of the big picture, rather than three inches of roadway map at the time.

And I wouldn’t have to listen to that annoyed voice in my ear.

All I can say is, where are William Rand and Andrew McNally when you need them?