By Greg Fuller
May 22, 2017
I had one of those electronic breakdowns last evening – not a complete disaster, but at least a momentary minor crisis.
I had just finished a very enjoyable impromptu reunion dinner with a number of my colleagues from General Electric Company, an early career journey from the nineteen-eighties. Most of whom I hadn’t seen for perhaps thirty years.
We met for dinner in the wilds of South San Francisco, in a fifties throwback family style Italian restaurant called the Garden Club. The place is tucked into the end of a small strip mall, in a residential area that I had no idea existed, and to which I had been directed by Google Maps through a circuitous course of small thoroughfares and back streets after exiting 101 South somewhere past the former location of Candlestick Park. The eponymously named exit still stands, although the ballpark does not.
After David’s Uber finally located him in the not particularly large parking lot and disappeared into the South San Francisco fog, I took the last few steps to my car, popped my cell into its’ dashboard holder, and proceeded to punch up Waze to artfully guide me back out of the unfamiliar suburban labyrinth and homeward toward Napa. David had complained about his older, underperforming cell phone as he tried to connect with his driver. It had been a foreshadowing. But alas, I had ignored it.
“Unable to connect. No navigation available.” Waze warned me in white letters glowing in the darkened cockpit. This was not good. You know, you trust these little gadgets with their soothing voices. Obey the lady blindly — turning here bearing there, without necessarily paying much attention to where you have been or even perhaps where you are going. It is an act of faith, of trust and submission. There are no broken twigs left along the way, no waypoints or landmarks noted to lead you back if the lady becomes obstinate or balks. You are completely at her mercy, for left to your own devices – or lack of devices as it were – you could be a long time lost and perhaps even perish in say, the outskirts of San Bruno or Burlingame.
I reset, hoping it was just a matter of her ‘warming up’ to me after having been idle and a little bit neglected during our festivities inside. She did not budge. Delete, restart, try leading me to Sausalito instead — for from there I would know the way home along the well traveled paths of my past. Still, she refused.
Ah well, perhaps I should seek support and solace elsewhere? At times, even aginst your better judgment, you are forced to such drastic measures. I will summon Google Maps. She is waiting, expectant to be launched on my primary screen.
But no, Miss Google was just as cruel and unaffected by my plight. There would be no comforting words of direction from her either – possibly being the wiser that I had just abandoned Miz Waze …
I could wait for daylight, maybe trail a commuter in the morning headed for The City. But I was expected at home. No doubt the attempt at a voice call or text messaging on my phone would be just as recalcitrant. The only thing to do was to launch, set out into the wilderness like a hiker stranded in a sudden snowstorm, in hopes that I might come to some less fearsome area, regain the signal, and be rescued.
I did know that, as obscure as my current location might be, I was but a few miles from the airport – had I not turned onto Airport Boulevard on my way in? – as well as both Interstate 280 and Route 101. Surely I would eventually run into one of these landmarks? I started cautiously out of the parking lot, trying to retrace at least some of my former route. “Chestnut street” – ah yes, I remember that one. But was it a right or a left? Maybe left – so try a right. I retrained my gaze briefly at my navigator, but she remained silent and as mulish as ever.
Finally, yes finally, she relented. “In one point three miles, turn left and enter Interstate Two-Eighty North,” she intoned levelly, without a hint of residue from her previous silence and obstinacy. But never mind, never mind — we were back!
And what luck, since my memory or lack of attention had sent me on a different path than that of my way in. For I had originally come down 101 and here we were, headed for 280, to the West. But what was on her mind? Would we now journey up the peninsula, through the city and Marin, as opposed to my inland entry route over the Bay Bridge? Or would there be another turn of events? Lest I risk her once again lapsing into silence, I dare not change the screen perspective to view the whole route. These ladies can be fickle if you question their judgment or examine motivations too closely.
Ah, but she remained constant. We avoided a previous collision shortly after crossing the city line, diverting onto Alemany Avenue and then deftly maneuvering through a heretofore unknown to me route back towards the Civic Center. Ultimately we first came onto 101, then 80, over the Bay Bridge, and back up the east side through Vallejo and over into the Valley. All was once again well with the world. And even though Miss Google continued to steer me truly, Miz Wave was there, behind us, unaffected, remaining constantly vigilant for dangers. We were a team, with no rancor or recriminations for past behavior. We were home.
But there is one little thing. As we got closer, Miss Google kept telling me to go ‘towards Noh-Pah’. As if she didn’t really know where she was. As if she were not really from here. As if she really didn’t know me. Because, of course, if she did, she would know it’s Naa Paa. I’ll bet Miz Waze would have known that.
(c) 2017 by Greg Fuller