Raging against a Machine

I have to take the kids to a physician so that she can sign the papers confirming that they have received the prerequisite immunisations for summer camp. This is going to be the culmination of months of information requests, clarifications, chasing calls, GP visits, jabs unavailable on the NHS (with associated flailing tantrums & fees), psychological duels with a vile GP receptionist, and letters generating outrageous admin charges, while brilliantly skirting around the crucial information requested.

I am confident that, against the odds, I have the documentation I need in a clear plastic folder sitting on the passenger seat.  The kids are strapped in and I have plenty of time to get to the Boca Pediatric Group on Town Center Road.  Victory will soon be mine.

Problem: the rental sat nav denies any such place exists.  No problem: I have the zip code. But the sat nav only seems to use zip codes in its results; it doesn’t accept them in a search. Surely, if they’re going to assign everything a number, it’s so you can put the number into a machine, right? I’m good with menu-based systems and manage to run every permutation of choices from every starting point within five minutes, conclusively establishing that there is no way of searching by zip code.  I even dally with the Help menu; a sign of a desperate man indeed. I do however find the road on the visual map, so I decide to waste no further time in getting on that road and finding this place by looking for it – old school!

Town Center Road is long, and all the buildings on it are part of complexes set well back from the main road.  After half an hour’s futile exploration of randomly selected plazas and retail parks, I surrender.  The appointment has long gone, and the kids’ exhortations for me to guess what number / animal / made-up word they are thinking of are not going to change that.

Back at the house, with the kids in the capable hands of SpongeBob, I sit down with the sat nav to work out where it all went wrong.  Why would it deny the existence of a major road that boldly features on its visual map?

Because I’d spelled it Town Centre Road and not Town Center Road, that’s why.

It reminds me of the time when a German waiter responded to my lengthy requests with total and intransigent incomprehension because of an incorrect gender for an inconsequential noun.  I feel sure that both he and this machine knew what I meant.

Never would I have believed that such a small screen could look at me with such smug, self-satisfied derision:

Smug, self-satisfied, derision

Well, it's no use to me now, is it?

The odd cross-cultural hiccup in communication is only to be expected, but not with a GPS device!  Not before I’ve properly engaged with any actual people yet! Now I have to reschedule the appointment and it’s possible that I won’t be able to do this in time for the start of summer camp.  But worse than all of that, I’m really struggling to blame anyone other than myself for this one.  Still, I’ll get there in the end; I always do.

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3 Responses to Raging against a Machine

  1. Jeremy Fries says:

    Strangely, I’ve never used satnav in the U.S., but I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about it sending people miles in the wrong direction…I’m hoping that it’s all urban myth! As well as “center” for “centre”, be sure to watch out for the s-z swap, which gets me every time. Anyhow, I’m enjoying your blog and looking forward to more!

    • Hi Jeremy! Generally sat navs are pretty good 99% of the time. That’s how they lull you into that false sense of security. They wait until they have your full, unquestioning confidence before they strike.

  2. Cate says:

    Computer says no.

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