Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Globally Positioned

My boss Harry gave me a GPS navigation system for Christmas -- a Garmin StreetPilot 340. He had floated the idea of giving one to all our consultants, and I had deferred for myself. "I was sometimes tempted to buy one, but I never thought I would use it enough to justify the price tag." I mean, how often am I driving to a new place? Once a month? And, between MapQuest and good directions, I always managed to find my way. So it seemed like an over-geeked thrill, a luxury purchased and never used, like an expensive exercise machine that gathers dust.

At least, that was my expectation. How wrong I was.

The killer feature that I did not anticipate was "Arrival Time." The device not only tells you where to go, it continually predicts your arrival time to the destination. So, all the stress of wondering whether you're going to be late or not is completely removed -- from the beginning of the trip, you know. No more wondering if you have time for a quick side-trip; that, too, can be calculated. That knowledge can be extremely powerful when you're trying to squeeze in errands. And if you call the customer to tell him you're going to be late, you can make a really accurate prediction of how late. The end result: much reduced stress. A two-hour drive to Charlotte, when time was tight, could be two hours of "hurry-hurry-hurry" tension . . . and now that's gone.

Another side-benefit is street education. Even when you think you're familiar with an area, you don't always know the best way to get from A to B. Several times the Garmin has saved me five or ten minutes by showing a better route.

And that's all on top of the original concept: telling you how to get someplace new. Even Janet, technophobe slow-adopter that she is, had to admit: "That thing saved my butt last night." When you're going to a new book-club location in the dark, in heavy traffic, the strain of watching and wondering, "Am I there yet? Did I miss my turn? Is this my turn?" can wear you down.

There are limitations, of course. There are some addresses and locations the device doesn't know about, and the usually easy process of programming it because maddenly frustrating. Sometimes it can't find it's satellites right away and you have to wait. But these are exceptions that prove the rule -- once you have the luxury of that information, you don't want to be without it.



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