Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Murphy's Law and a Malicious GPS



I recently spent nearly a week in Tennessee visiting my parents and selling books—and golfing and ruining my left knee. At 11:00 am on Friday morning, I headed for Saugatuck, Michigan, for an art in the park where I was to sell more of my books. My Garmin GPS said I’d arrive at my daughter’s apartment, forty minutes north of Saugatuck at 8:22 pm. Yeah, right. What GPS ever took into consideration Murphy’s Law? Exactly…none of them ever do.


The obvious route was to take I-40 into Nashville and then catch I-65 north to Michigan. The Garmin, however was bound and determined that I take back roads for approximately 650 miles. I wholeheartedly disagreed, so each and every exit I passed, the annoying mechanical device recalculated my arrival time, and it continued to scoff at me, telling me I was going to arrive later and later. On the two-hour leg of the trip to Nashville, the Garmin let me know I had lost well over an hour, so inconceivably, just before Nashville, I decided to do as the Garmin said, thinking I just might miss the noontime traffic by skirting around the city. The Garmin is actually a demon, isn’t it? It was programmed by an evil, insidious, inhumane, sinister person, intent on ruining the day of any would-be follower who recklessly throws all caution to wind, correct? On my ninth turn and eleventh stoplight, I began to recognize that I didn’t “recognize” anything whatsoever and that Nashville was quite a busy city and that I was lost and my Garmin had no intention of finding me or saving me any time on my trip. It just wanted to toy with me. I checked it for settings that might possibly say “Expressways only” or some such thing. I swear I barely took my eyes off the road, but when I looked up, the twelfth red stoplight had mysteriously appeared and another car was comfortably sitting before it while I raced toward him at approximately forty MPH. I slammed on my breaks, swerved to the shoulder, and skidded to a stop exactly beside the law-abiding driver. I never looked to my left, but I’m certain the driver was glaring at me and making unnecessary gestures. I knew I was a careless idiot; I didn’t need any additional confirmation.


Well, I found I-40 (yes, the very road I exited) and drove the rest of the way through Nashville and onto I-65 north. My car brakes had begun grinding unmercifully after the near accident—until Louisville, Kentucky, that is. It was there that every car on the highway was taking a siesta. No cars were moving—at all—and the grinding stopped. Indefinitely. For some reason, no cars were getting off at the exit just ahead and to my right. When I eventually inched forward, I decided to head through another big city. I actually had very little faith in the GPS, so I took out my phone and went to the compass with the brilliant notion of heading north for a while and then slipping back onto the expressway ahead of the traffic jam. My compass said I was going southwest. I can now say with certainty that there was a Gremlin in my phone as well…so after driving several miles in what I was sure was the correct direction, I finally turned to the GPS device for guidance. It said turn left. Turn left. Turn left. Turn left. I kid you not—I went completely around onto the same road I started. If Louisville has a ghetto, by the way, I was in it. All roads were one-way streets. On the fifth left, I was directed to get on I-65 east, which I passed out of confusion, but I then decided in pure frustration to do as I was instructed by the evil device, so again I turned left, left, left, left, left, left—again, I kid you not—and it was on all different streets than before. I didn’t recognize a single one, but on the sixth left, the fiendish gadget told me to get on I-65 west. Yes, west. I did it. And somehow shortly thereafter was speeding along north toward my destination. 


My arrival time continued to climb as I burst back onto the expressway, certain that it would be smooth sailing, but within five minutes, there was no movement whatsoever. I saw flashing lights far ahead, but no cars were moving at all; however, there was an exit to my right. I was in the left lane, of course. After waiting twenty minutes with my turn signal on, the cars had moved enough for me to change lanes and I drove right into…a rest stop—even I had to laugh. But I passed about a hundred cars when I drove back out onto the expressway. When I finally passed the mangled car, burnt to a crisp on the side of the road, my Garmin said I was going to arrive at 11:00. I’d lost two hours and thirty-eight minutes at that point. 


There is a road that runs north through Indiana called US-31 that on a map looks like a wonderful shortcut to Grand Rapids, Michigan, but which a couple of kind customers in a gas station told me to avoid like a plague, unless I wanted to stop at approximately 400 stoplights and visit 35 small towns on my way through the state. I chose to heed the advice, but my Garmin was bound and determined for me to exit and use the most direct path. Each time I passed the suggested exit, the time recalculated to something later, until at midnight, I was still an hour from Saugatuck and an hour and forty minutes (barring a new disaster) from Allendale and my desired resting place. I had an unload/set-up time at 6:45 am on Saturday. I deducted that it was no longer sensible to visit my daughter, so I pulled off at an exit where I saw a Super 8 motel where I envisioned a nap and a shower for about $40.00. At the Super 8, a single room was just “$109.99 plus tax.” I slept in a truck stop.


My knee was aching, my car was full of crap, and I was so tired and frustrated that I basically cleared space on top of my folded-down back seats which I was unable to raise, laid down some blankets and pillows, and crashed for four hours. I woke up twice—the first time after a dream that I was speeding around an elevated expressway entrance and my brakes weren’t working. I jerked the steering wheel so I wouldn’t fall to my death and woke myself, dripping inside a sauna. Every window was fogged over and I was completely drenched in sweat. I opened the windows some and fell asleep only to dream I was being robbed at gunpoint at the truck stop, but I saved myself with a sand wedge from my golf bag that I used to whack the thief over the head. As I was plucking hairs off my wedge, my phone alarm went off, and I got to have my first experience in a truck stop shower. Thirteen dollars. But I showered, changed from my sweat-saturated clothes, brushed my teeth, and made it to my art in the park event right on time—nineteen hours and forty-five minutes after I left Tennessee. Thank you very much, Murphy. It was a frustrating adventure that I’ll never forget.