Today is a guest post written by Ronald J. Curell. Ron is a retired blue collar man, and is a carpenter, father, hardware worker, and grandfather.
Now you’ll have to take a second and remember the days not that long ago when cell phones and GPS didn’t exist.
“Where is the job at?” I asked into the phone.
“Right on the corner, near the light,” the annoyed voice said, “where are you?”
“On the pay phone at the gas station on that corner,” I responded. This was before cell phones.
“Well turn around and look.” Across the highway and a little behind the fast food joint, there was the job we were going to.
Or imagine this…
A different summer when we were doing some remolding on Bay City schools, the guy who I was working for said, “Follow me to the job.” After a dozen turns and down this street and that, we arrived at the school. He left and I worked all day. When it was time to go home I realized, “Where in the world was I?”
Or how about this…
A friend who worked construction with me liked to tell the story of how he and a guy would ride together to the jobs. My friend would let this guy use his car so that my friend could sleep.
One day the partner said, “I cannot go to work today you will have to go alone.”
“Sure,” said my friend. “I will need directions.” This was after a couple weeks on the job.
Having worked construction from Mio to Ohio and lots of places in between, I think I have a good grasp on how to get places. I will add that I can take you to the city better than “up north,” but trees do not make good land marks, and if you have seen one you have seen them all. I would rather work in the city with real land marks than up north.
Not long ago I was talking to someone about going places and they have a GPS, which is a direction finding device. You tell it where you want to go and it tells you where to go. I do not have one but I will admit I used one once.
We like to go to Meadowbrook Theater, and for some reason even though I have been there a few times I have trouble finding the place. I can get within sight of the driveway but miss the building every time. In my defense, it has always been at night and there is not a good sign or good lighting.
The first time I ended up at a different building with a similar name. This was after stopping and asking for directions at a gas station that was less than a quarter mile from where I wanted to be!
So this past winter I borrowed my son-in-law’s GPS. It took us down our road to start okay, but then again, I can get to my home town with no problems anyways. But then it commenced to tell us each and every stop and turn. How frustrating! I know how to get within 600 feet of the place where I live, and I would sometimes do a different turn just to hear it say, “You missed your turn–recalculating.”
I keep waiting for the box to say, “You idiot, don’t you know how to follow directions?”
Then when I got almost there at the next corner the female voice said, “Turn left” and wouldn’t you know, that lovely voice was right, it was 500 feet on the left. Sure enough I drove right to it, no problem.
A different time I was riding with someone and we were looking for a place and I said, “Don’t you have a map in the car?”
“No,” was the answer, and a funny questioning look was his expression.
Now I always have and still do have a folded-up map of our state in my truck (that, children, is what we used to use back in the day). When I first started construction I would have it folded to show our part of the state and tried to work only in the area that was displayed. When the boss said you have to go to a place that required unfolding it, I would say, “Can’t, don’t know how to find it.” He would say a city off the map, “Romulus,” and I would say, “No, that is Ron-less.” Or he would say a different off-map city, “Go to Novi,” and I would say, “That is NO-I.”
Needless to say, that didn’t last long, and soon it was unfolded and I was working from Ohio to Mio. And that included Indiana and the U.P. for that matter.
Talking to the friend about the GPS, he said that it will ask for the county you are going to. My buddy admitted that he didn’t always know the county. He went right on to say that you had to make sure you had the right state programmed in the device or it might say, “You’re lost.”
This got me to thinking, “Do I know all 83 Michigan counties? No.” Now my mother could recite all of them, she would start down on the left side of the state and go Berrien, Cass, Joseph, Branch and so forth. I would have to unfold my map to get those names. I can name maybe a third of the counties.
So that’s my question to you: Are electronic devices making us smarter or just helping us get lost easier?