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The Commuter Column: Driving With a GPS

Kathleen Joyce

This summer I went on two road trips to places I had never been before, Philadelphia and Hershey Park. Driving to Hershey, Pennsylvania, was okay because I had an accomplice with me telling me directions, but when going to Philadelphia, I was all by myself. I’m not saying I’m incapable of doing things alone, but driving to an unfamiliar place scared the living daylights out of me. So I used the GPS and this is what I got out of it: it’s a driving nuisance and this is why.

First and foremost, this GPS that I had did not let me know what my next turn or exit would be, so I had to take my eyes off the road to look at the GPS to see my next move. So that confused me at first. Then the arrows on those things are impossible to read – sometimes it looks like it’s going left, other times it looks like it’s going right, and most of the time I went the wrong way and then had to turn around again. And everything on the GPS is measured in feet. I know what a foot is, but I can’t calculate what 100 feet is when I’m driving; I’m sorry but I can’t. And is it just me, but when the GPS talks, doesn’t it sound like a bunch of gibberish?

But recently I was driving my friend’s new Altima, which has a built-in GPS and for some reason it’s much more accurate and easier to follow than mine because the sound goes through- out the whole car, and the distance wasn’t measured in feet. There also weren’t any arrows. Of course, the factory-installed GPS had its qualms, like it didn’t give any route options, it just gave directions, and a few times it took a longer way than we should have taken.

If when driving, you hap- pen to come across a problem with your GPS, like it decides it doesn’t want to work because of a bad satellite signal, and you’re just about to throw the thing out the window, pull over and let it re-calculate, or use your phone for directions. A few times this happened, I pulled over, calmed down and then continued driving on for a bit until the GPS decided to work again. But I had noted in my head what the next stop would be just in case the satellite went down again, and then continued on my journey.

According to, they suggest practicing using the GPS before taking a long trip, or when getting a new car, they suggest just fiddling around with the GPS until you get comfortable with it. They also advise you to update your GPS every year or the satellite signal will get lost, and then your GPS is worthless.

I feel that life was more simple before the introduction of the GPS. People were okay with getting lost, since the world wasn’t in such a rush. And reading a map is ridiculous! Have you seen those things? If you could learn to read a map, I would consider you to be a genius and sexy, because come on, who takes the time to learn how to read a map? That’s somebody you want to have around. So thanks GPS, for making road trips a bit easier, but totally confusing at the same time.

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