Quirky directions? This should be fun

Technology, don’t ya just love it?

Cell phones with built-in navigation systems are the latest leap forward in the electronic wonderland we know as the 21st century.

According to a recent Associated Press report touting these pocket marvels of modern technology, they’re convenient, portable and considerably less expensive than a full-fledged Global Positioning System.

On the other hand, AP warns, they can be a little, er, quirky…

Somehow, quirky wouldn’t seem to be the quality most of us would be looking for when trying to navigate between, say, Oskaloosa and Ottumwa during a hailstorm.

(Although, when you think about it, anyone seriously wishing to travel between Oskaloosa and Ottumwa is already a little quirky.)

Nor do many of us breeze into our favorite electronics store and ask the bright-eyed counter nerd if they’ve gotten any really cool quirky stuff in lately.

Admittedly, virtually every technological breakthrough in the history of mankind has been plagued by some minor glitches in the beginning and it’s up to us brave consumer pioneers to purchase them because, by God, they’re there and this is America.

Think about it – navigating your way across Iowa with a cell phone is really no different from utilizing any one of a dozen other forms of new technology available to us at the push of a button.

I, for one, frequently rejoice in the voice recognition software recently installed by the phone company. It’s new. It’s exciting. It’s quirky.

Not long ago, I tried to obtain the phone number for the San Joaquin County Coroner’s Office. An automated long distance information system promptly gave me the number I’d asked for, or at least the number it thought I’d asked for.

For some reason understood only by automated electronic long-distance information robots, I got The Corner Fruit Stand.

Imagine the surprise of the fruit stand clerk when I asked her for an autopsy report I’d been trying to locate.

Now that’s what I call quirky…

Of course, if your cell phone navigation system does get a little weird on you, you can always fall back on the tried-and-true navigational aids of our forefathers:

** Directions from the amiable drunk guy sitting outside the Snort ‘n’ Whistle Tavern on the outskirts of Kewanee.

** The torn, coffee-stained old map your brother-in-law left under the passenger seat of your Studebaker back in 1978.

** Unintelligible, bullet-riddled rural road signs that may, or may not, direct you to either “Huntington” or “Hurricane.”

** Surly service station attendants who speak fluent Latvian.

There is, of course, one obvious advantage of having a cell phone with a built-in navigation system over the aforementioned directional aids. Even if it’s a little quirky, at least you can use the cell phone to call for help after you’ve navigated yourself into an alligator-infested bog just south of Frostproof, Fla….

Happy motoring, amigos.

Originally published November 14, 2004