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Story by Lois Grace

OK, now maybe it's just me being crabby again, but what is the big deal about GPS?  I don't get it.  Are maps really that confusing and complicated (although I'll admit to having a bit of difficulty folding one up now and then)? Do you really need that little voice telling you where to go?  (for a lot less I'd tell them where to go).  Have we, as a society,  become so reliant on gizmos and gadgets that we've forgotten how to live without them?  I am always amazed, when, first thing in the early morning, I turn out of my street to go to work and encounter someone on a cell phone while driving.  WHO ON EARTH ARE YOU TALKING TO?  You just woke up!  And, why couldn't you have said what you needed to say 5 minutes earlier, before you left the house?  Are you avoiding using a landline for some reason?  It's idiocy, I'm telling you. Have we really become a society so fixated on gizmos that we've forgotten how to do things ourselves?

Nearly everyone I know has hands free cell phone thingies in their cars, along with GPS and satellite radio and Blackberries and day planners and everything else technology can offer.   One friend just chucked her Windows-based computer life and bought an iPad.  And these people still can't get anywhere on time or without getting lost!  In short, the ones that need all this junk can't use it and the ones who can use it don't need it in the first place.  I bet cavemen said that when the first wheel appeared on the scene.  Don't get me wrong:  technology is a good thing and without it we'd all still be driving horses and buggies instead of Bugs.  But GPS is just a little too space-age for me.  Whatever happened to spreading out a map and just finding out where you are, or where you want to go?  Wait, don't tell me: no one can read after graduating school anymore.  Or maybe it's because folding up that map is so intimidating.  I don't know. Whatever it is I'm just glad I'm not a part of it.

I do realize I am, by far, the exception rather than the rule in this.  But don't worry, I am used to being the exception.  It seems to run in my genes and I've become (in my older age) quite proud of it.  In answer to the unspoken question, NO, I do not still have an 8-track tape player in my car; in fact, I never did have one.  I'm still a fan of my old cassettes, but I have a CD player in the car I drive daily.  We watch color TV (oooooh!! Imagine!), call people on our push button phones (yes, the house has more than one and we got rid of the rotary dial phone years ago, even though I protested as it worked perfectly), and I have nearly worn out my digital camera.  No film for me anymore!  Heck I even have a cell phone that I have been known to use now and then.  But I draw the line at GPS.  I am not so stupid that I need some mechanical voice telling me where to turn.  And, I like to keep the brain cells I still have in good working order. 

Could this be the end of the brain, as we know it?  With all this modern thinking for us, can the evolution of the brainless human be far behind?  Oh yeah, no, it's already taken place, and They are among us.  You can spot them a mile away:  car pointed in the direction they want to go, computer voice blabbering directions at them, glassy-eyed stare over the steering wheel, cell phone plastered to one ear.  California's recently-enacted law requires all drivers to use a hands-free device (Bluetooth or the like) if they wish to talk on a cell phone while driving.  But get this:  TEXT MESSAGING is OK!  What lunatic thought this law up?  Here in the state of California I could tell you exactly which one but then I'd be sued, probably.  UM excuse me but don't you need hands for driving, not to mention at least part of a working brain?  And, again, who are these people you are texting and why can't that message wait?  I heard recently that savvy teens now have a word for it:  driving while inTEXTicated.  We can only hope that the rest of the young people (and, for that matter, anyone who texts while on the road) take this term to heart.  Studies prove it's as deadly as being inTOXicated behind the wheel.  Now, when you get a new cell phone, you can do things with it you didn't even know you wanted to do!  Send and receive email?  There's an app (application) for that. Take and download pictures onto your computer from wherever you are?  There's an app for that.  Open your car door when you've locked yourself out?  There's even an app for that.  And that's only the beginner stuff.  Well, excuse me, but I don't WANT an app for anything! I wanna do it myself.  And in this case I don't wanna do it at all. 

Do we really need all this technology?  Must we embrace the next new thing totally and with lighthearted abandon?  As a technophobe married to an engineer, I have seen the past (part of it anyway), and I have glimpsed the future (as far ahead as I dare look without scaring myself to death).  Hey, if remaining the same for over 40 years was good enough for the Beetle, it's good enough for me!  I just think - and have always thought - that, while change should be encouraged and supported, change for changes sake is not a good thing.  The mobile phone industry has proven that, over and over again.  Why was this lunacy ever allowed by law?  There is a simple fix for this problem and that is to install scramblers on all new vehicles.  In other words, put a device in the car that will render a cell phone useless while the vehicle is in motion and/or the ignition is on.  I have heard these devices already exist, and are installed in some fancy-schmancy restaurants to keep patrons from blabbering through their meals (and ruining yours).  But the big question remains:  why do we have to be told this stuff?  Do we really need government regulating when we can talk and when we can't?  Shouldn't we know better ourselves when it's OK to make a simple phone call and when it's not?  It shouldn't be that complicated!  But I guess nowadays, when you need a synthesized human voice to tell you where to go, you might just need some law telling you not to drive in the first place.  I wonder if there's an app for that.


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