World Navigator Adrift in Central NJ

by | May 31, 2015

Suddenly, Siri quits talking to me. I look at my iPhone: temperature alert. It is in danger of frying and has shut down. The Mallard is a north country car: no air conditioning. I toss the phone into the shade under the dash and pull over.

I have no idea where I am; no idea where I am going and no idea how to get back. At home an hour earlier, I Googled “NJ hiking”, tapped the Lat/Long of a likely trail into my phone and took off, mindlessly following Siri’s directions. Even if I had a paper map, I wouldn’t know where to go.

The phone cools and reboots. I stretch out my arm squinting; my reading glasses, the most powerful Walgreens sells, can’t resolve the text; it is too small and too faint in the bright sunlight. I hustle out of the car and crash thru the brush bordering the highway until I find a leafy tree casting a shadow.

Google Maps doesn’t remember where we are headed. I have to hunt for it. I bring up Chrome; it crashes. I bring it up again; it hangs. I click up Safari, grudgingly thankful that Apple makes it impossible to uninstall—I tried.

Cars whizz past me, tires on hot pavement, every one of them hogging bandwidth. My phone takes minutes to resolve each page. I don’t remember the name of the website or of the trail. I tap in likely search terms. After some minutes, I find a list of trails that looks familiar and click thru it. Find it. I click on the lat/long to bring up Google Maps. Google tells me I need an app for this. I have the damn app; I transfer the numbers by hand.

Back in action, Siri, reassuring and unflappable, tells me what to do. I exhale with relief, put the Mallard into gear and lumber back onto the highway.

When I sailed, I navigated by the sun, moon, and stars. All other boats used GPS. A couple times a year, a boat’s GPS would fail and the boat would wander lost at sea, plaintive cries echoing over the marine radio-net; the skipper not knowing how to use his sextant. In my righteousness, I would snicker at those who relied on technology to find their way.

I am, I guess, of that tribe now.

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