This is one man who's happy to ask for directions. But should he trust his wife… or his new GPS?
I'm a man, which is supposed to mean that I'm not willing to ask for directions. But on this front, I've always been a little different. For the last nine years, my wife has been my shining directional beacon, a kind of sit-next-to-me Northern Star. When we lived in New York City, she would send me on the subway with yellow post-it notes that detailed the stops and transfers. Without these handwritten guides, I'd likely be penning this story as an emissary of the mole people.
But this year, I was given a Garmin global positioning system (GPS) as a birthday gift—a robot whose sole responsibility was to offer me the best route to take. It's a little surprising how quickly these things have become popular, for, according to conventional wisdom, the only way a man would take directions from a machine was if robots finally succeeded in taking over the planet. But apparently for most men it's not the same as asking directions if they come in the form of a mechanized female voice.
Within days of receiving my Garmin, I felt like I had a new co-pilot, and I started reveling in the challenge of beating the estimated arrival times, cursing if I lost minutes to stop lights or traffic. Listening to my wife had never gotten me in trouble, but once the smooth British tones of our GPS entered our lives, I became torn: on one hand, I believed in my wife and all our history, but also, like most men, I place an irrational amount of trust in technology and science. Visualize and achieve—it's what men are taught as boys who play sports and why we doggedly believe in a collection of soldered microchips.
"Were other men giving in to the robot navigator?" I ask Bill, a Best Buy sales associate in the GPS aisle. "Guys always want the latest technology," he tells me. "But they come standard on so many things now, I think everybody uses them." And at the end of the day, the GPS can't mock our lack of directional sense. 20 Relationships And Technology Dos And Don'ts
Shame, pride and ego are really at the heart of the matter, as most everyone who's been in a relationship knows. What's more likely to cause an argument for a couple than being lost on vacation? A few months ago, my wife and I sat in a rented little silver Hyundai, the car lurching to a stop after stalling for the third time in less than a minute. A light fog masked the road beyond the ditch in front of us as I wondered whether I could muster up enough speed in the hatchback to leap the three-foot gap. That seemed to be what the Garmin wanted us to do.
My wife suggested that we might consider overruling the GPS. The electronic voice had already taken us down a bike path in rural Denmark and was now urging me to attempt a Dukes of Hazards-style reentry onto a single lane Danish road. I felt myself facing more than one crossroads.
I've pretty much always been aware that I possess a decidedly errant sense of direction. Since I was 6 years old, I knew I would never make it as a captain on the open seas. My internal compass broke on a Tuesday night ride home in a classmate's car, just seven minutes and three turns from my house in Fairfield, Connecticut. A new carpool driver made the unfortunate choice to ask me to navigate from the way back of his cream-colored station wagon.
"Take Buena Vista," I told him immediately. Buena Vista is not the name of a single roadway in Fairfield; I believe it's a resort in Disney World.
Forty-five minutes later, we turned into my driveway, my reputation as directionless forever sealed.
And so in early September, I sat in the cramped rental, paralyzed by the disagreement between my top two navigational advisors. Eventually I did what any man would do; I stopped taking directions and started acting on pure frustration. I popped the car into reverse and began trying to retrace the roads that led us onto the bike path. As my wife offered suggestions and the GPS unit chirped "recalculating" ad nauseam, I made an extended series of wrong turns. Nine round-a-bouts later we arrived at our hotel, three and a half hours after the estimated arrival time.
Technology can drive a beeping, attention-sucking wedge between men and women. In a recent survey from Energizer, 30 percent of all married men couldn't decide if they would rather give up their wives or their smartphones, and a shocking 15 percent said they'd drop the spouse. Thankfully, I still love my wife more than any machine. While she can be wrong, at least she has the capacity to rethink things—and apologize. Whereas when the GPS fails, you end up wondering how much a broken axle will cost to replace in the middle of Denmark. Female Vs Male Brain: Is There A Difference?
Still, 9 out of 10 people you speak to will tell you they're happy to use a Garmin or similar product. How many of those would trust their wives for directions? I shudder to speculate.
I, for one, will keep asking for help. Last weekend I was out walking my dog in the neighborhood when a Chevy Cutlass kept pace, setting both of us on edge.
The car window pulled down and the elderly driver yelled out, "I'm looking for a house on 72nd Terrace."
"Sure, it's right behind you, just take your next left," I told the woman, glad that I recognized the street.
She drove off, and I suddenly realized, No, she needed to take a right, not a left. I shook my head slightly. If she's not married, she really should get a GPS.