Pete Holmes has a bit about Google in his act that I enjoy. He says, “I have Google on my phone now and it’s ruining our lives. I don’t know if you’ve noticed…it’s ruining life…because we know everything. But we’re not a lick smarter for it. We just know.”
I tend to agree with Pete. I call him Pete because we’re friends. Well, I listen to his podcast every week, which is as close to friendship as some people get these days.
But that’s neither here nor there.
His point is that our collective sense of wonder is dissipating into the ether. I’ve noticed this in one area of my life particularly: Directions.
Unlike Pete, I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t know if it’s because I have a shitty phone or because of my general attitude, but I’m not attached to my phone like other people. Sometimes I leave it at my apartment when I run errands. Sometimes I leave it in the other room. Sometimes I let it run out of battery.
I’m able to let those things happen without shaking and going into withdrawal like a junkie looking for fix in Giuliani’s squeaky clean new New York. And, for the record, I know this is making me sound like that dude who makes a point of telling people he doesn’t own a television. Because missing out on Breaking Bad makes you Bukowski or something? I don’t know.
Because of my phone’s sub-par IQ, I can’t ask Siri where the hell I’m going while driving. If I’m not quite sure where my destination is before I leave my apartment, I’ll pull up a map on the Internet. If the directions are simple–a few turns–I’ll just count on remembering them. If they’re more complicated, I’ll jot down some notes in a kind of directional shorthand I’ve developed.
For some people, that is unimaginable. Dizziness and panic would creep in without the aid of an iPhone or GPS. I’m sure there are teenagers who have never had to remember where to to turn and who think Rand McNally is the name of some dude in a British boy band.
While my mom is navigationally challenged, my dad has always had a keen sense of direction. Like me, he’s always had a fascination with maps and geography in general. So, while we were rarely lost on roadtrips, it never seemed like a big deal when we were.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand wanting–needing–GPS if you’re traveling someplace that’s completely foreign to you. Especially if you’re women. You have no idea if you’ll end up in a bad neighborhood, but, more to the point, who you’ll run into. There are still vast swaths of men who can’t seem to act in accordance with the rules of civilized society.
But that’s not the kind of situation I’m talking about. I’m talking about places you’re somewhat familiar with–The other side of town, the next city over, the family vacation spot.
In these places you should feel free to miss your turn or head the wrong the way. If time isn’t an issue, why not explore the world around you? As long as you know how to get back to a major landmark or road you should be fine. Yet I know people who go all Bill Paxton in Aliens if they miss a turn. The worst thing these people could hear is “RECALCULATING…RECALCULATING…”
But I’ve found that attitude will get you nowhere (get it!? Because directions). If you can bear to tell Siri to cram it, it can be quite freeing.
I recognize that I have a unique perspective, though. I’ve lived in four different different states–Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and North Carolina. Within those four states, I’ve called seven different houses, apartments and dorms home. I suppose getting lost and just driving is my way of getting my bearings and adjusting to my new surroundings.
Though I may wander, I am not lost.