Gurney's Inn
January 03, 2007

Reporter's Notebook

Go West, Young Woman

Okay, I admit it: I am directionally challenged. Put me on the road and tell me to head to a location in Southampton from my Remsenburg home and I may get there in, oh, a few hours, if I'm lucky. Add East Hampton to the mix and the ETA grows exponentially. And if it's raining or dark — well, I may as well just hail a taxi and call it a day. It's that bad.

In my own pathetic defense, I only got my driver's license three years ago. Growing up in Brooklyn, I was an ardent devotee of public transportation and delighted in the 24-hour-a-day accessibility of car service. No traffic snarls to shatter my serenity. No need to learn the intricacies of a road map, ever.

Until I moved to the East End, and realized that really, there was no alternative but to drive. After many, many hours of driving lessons and more than my share of road tests, I earned the coveted license. But what no one ever mentioned was that even with the mechanics of driving under my belt I'd still have to get myself from Point A to Point B. No mean feat. Especially when I'm simply unable to read a road map and find myself driving in circles long after I'm due for an interview or a scheduled event.

Long-suffering friends have tried to help me navigate and have even attempted to share with me the hidden secrets of the highly touted "back roads." Short cuts, they say, mean everything, especially on those sultry summer days when County Road 39 is swollen with sweltering tourists headed east. Short cuts — hah! So far, I have been unable to manage even a simple maneuver to my office and back without mishap and confusion.

Until this Christmas, when under my tree, Santa saw fit to bestow salvation, neatly wrapped in the form of a GPS navigational system.

To put it simply, that gift symbolizes my own true Christmas miracle. Not only does is this direct-from-heaven device out-of-the-box easy — just plug it and, voila!, it starts working automatically — but it's friendly, too.

To begin, you choose from a plethora of pleasant voices to guide you on your perilous journey. Me, I opted for a smooth-talking British gent named Tim, whose gentle persuasions sound like so many sweet nothings as he steers me forward.

Tim, actually, is the perfect traveling companion. No bitching, no complaining, no barking. Unlike so many who have driven with me, he does not burst out in a stream of obscenities or call me stupid when I make a wrong turn. (Even my driving instructor, at one point, made a scathing comment about my performance. Totally unprofessional — I was paying the man for the privilege of riding with me!).

Tim never chides, only suggests. Even when a wrong turn might be made inadvertently, his soothing voice caresses, comforts. "Turn around as soon as possible," he murmurs. He may as well have offered me slippers and a massage — he's that accommodating.

And not only is Tim sweet, he's smart, too — able to give alternate routes when traffic is bad and give advice on how to find area restaurants and other points of interest. And he's a world traveler — not only does he give instructions for travel in the United States and Canada, but offers the option of international directions, too.

Bliss in a box.

Now, if only the gods of giving could package a GPS for all areas of the working mom's busy life. Think of the endless possibilities — a foolproof cooking GPS to guide even the most hapless attempts at cooking into culinary wonders: "Dinner is burning! Please turn around and notice the smoke!"

A GPS to guide new parents: "Your child is approaching a stairwell — Please intercept immediately!"

Of course, there is always the frightening thought that we are emerging, as predicted by George Orwell in 1984 into a society where nothing is sacrosanct — where our every move is tracked by 24-hour surveillance. GPS systems in our cars today, utter submission tomorrow. The possibilities are nothing short of chilling.

But I'll risk it. Because honestly, if my new GPS means that I have a chance in hell of actually arriving somewhere without having to leave three hours early, it's a gift beyond measure. And, if it means that I can actually drive beyond my self-imposed East End boundaries and head west on a bonafide road trip, sign me up! Who knows, pretty soon I may very well be starring in my very own version of Thelma and Louise, without the morbid ending, of course. Just me, my convertible and Tim, of course — every woman's dream date.

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