Your GPS can’t save you.

Maggie GPSAnd I thought my GPS would save me from nightmares like the one suffered by Sabine Moureau, a 67 year old woman living in Wallonia, Belgium. The poor woman took off on a 55 mile trip to pick up a friend at a Brussels train station following the directions given to her by her GPS. She put her mind on auto-pilot and blindly (not a word you want associated with driving) followed the instructions of the friendly voice.

The next day, she arrived in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, more than 900 miles from her point of origin. It was at that point that she first suspected a problem. (Really, Sherlock?)

Moreau had traveled through Germany, Austria, and Slovenia to end up in the Central European country; she had filled up her gas tank twice; and she had stopped to sleep for a few hours. Just how long did she think it would take to travel 55 miles?

She said, “I switched on the GPS and punched in the address. Then I started out. My GPS seemed a bit wonky. It sent me on several diversions and that’s where it must have gone wrong… I saw tons of different signposts, first in French, later in German, but I kept on driving.” Reminds of the Postal Service motto: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” I can hear my husband saying, “USER error.”

There’s absentmindedness and trust, but there’s also being disengaged to the point of being a danger to yourself and others. I am terrible with directions myself, as Gayle will tell you readily, but even I have never traveled more than one hour in the wrong direction.

When the lost lady finally returned home, her family was relieved. They had reported her as missing. She was, and she may be still. And her poor friend who was left waiting at the train station? She managed to find alternate transportation. I would recommend that she do that permanently.

After all, if I lived in Richmond, Virginia, and wanted to go to Fredericksburg, Virginia, I think I would be suspicious when I passed a North Carolina sign. I would perhaps understand missing the North Carolina sign, but would I not see the South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida signs either? Would I not realize there was a problem BEFORE I ran out of land on the other side of Miami? That would be roughly 900 miles.

I have a Magellan, and I call her “Maggie.” If Maggie ever does that to me, she can look for another job. If I head for Charlotte, North Carolina, and end up on the other side of New York City, someone please take away my driver’s license. Friends don’t let friends drive with their eyes closed and their brains turned off.

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15 thoughts on “Your GPS can’t save you.

  1. Susan Kaye

    This isn’t disengagement, this is catatonia. I think she was running away from home and chickened out.

    But, several years ago, there were stories about older German men being mesmerized by the female voice of their GPS. They would be in so deep they would disregard construction signs when their “Maggie” would purr, “Turn left.” They wound up driving into ditches or piles of gravel. Which I would think they should have been able to see.

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    1. Robin Helm Post author

      You may be on to something. I don’t see how she could do this unintentionally. Perhaps she was on some nefarious mission and changed her mind.

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      1. Susan Kaye

        I can buy someone using GPS and still getting lost in the desert or the mountains. Roads in those areas are in constant flux. But driving 55 minutes away and still filling the tank twice!?! Nah, there’s something else going on here.

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        1. Laura Hile


          Two words sum it up: MOSES LAKE

          Traveling from Idaho to Oregon Susan Kaye and I have made the wrong highway navigation so many times that wrong seems correct! A half an hour of blissful driving (both of us talking simultaneously) — without a GPS, only human intellect — and then we see the water tower.

          Uh-oh.

          The course correction for this mistake covers many miles.

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            1. Laura Hile

              Nothing to lose in making your own audio. Gayle, who has an excellent sense of pace and cadence, can be your director! Or, demand that I come out for a week to help you this summer. Because this sounds like a grand project. :).

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            2. Robin Helm Post author

              It would be great if you could come here this summer, but I wouldn’t want to spend all of our time recording my books. I would want to rewrite Guardian before I recorded it. Maybe I’ll be better satisfied with my new books. Ha!

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  2. Susan Kaye

    I know what happened! Picking up a friend was a ruse. This woman is a HUGE Jane Eyre fan and was headed to Estonia where a musical version is opening this week. (Details HERE.) She headed south instead of east and decided to cut her losses when she realized her mistake.

    That makes about as much sense as the original story, IMO.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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