Tag Archives: driving

My Smartphone Saved my Marriage

Pick any vacation Mr. Wordtabulous and I have been on in our twenty-one years of marriage and I guarantee you there was a point in it while we were driving that he said, “Hey, take a look at the map and see which turn I should take up here.” A simple, reasonable request. Out loud I say, “Uh, sure,” and fumble for the map. Inside I am saying, “Crap! Crap! Crap!” Here’s the scoop: one, I get carsick easily and quickly. I can turn green reaching for the gum when we go over a bump. You can’t look at the road and look at the map at the same time, and the disconnect between my inner sense of balance and the real world is heightened when I am eyeing small print that sways and heaves with every movement of the car. My husband knows this. Second, since I don’t look at maps until I have to, I have no idea where we currently are on the map, and while I am comfortable with maps in leisurely and stationary situations, getting oriented on-the-go with the questionable turns imminently upon us is harder than tying your shoes quickly with an irate Capuchin monkey dancing on your head. Not that Mr. W. is an angry Capuchin monkey, but he is uncomfortable with uncertainty and I am uncomfortable with his discomfort. Co-dependency 101. Third, the payoff, even if I save the day, find our location, navigate the correct turn, and don’t throw up is questionable. Sometimes even the best route on paper that any rational person would choose can end up taking you to a detour around a street festival with poorly marked alternate routes through seedy areas with no visible way back to civilization. It happens. And it’s not my fault, although it kind of feels like it is, which makes me grumpy.

It might seem like the solution would be, whenever we are about to set out into unfamiliar territory, to review the map BEFORE we get started, to note critical intersections, to consider alternatives ahead of time–not exhaustively, but enough to get us started. Even having the map folded open to the right section would be a start. Neither of us have managed to get closer to this idyllic starting point than for Mr. W to ask me, as we are pulling onto the road, “You navigating?” Crap, crap, crap.

Last January, the Wordtabulous household upgraded our cellphones to smart devices, and one of the applications we learned about was Navigation. I love Navigation. Even when Nav is wrong, and repeatedly tells me to make u-turns to get to a destination only half a mile ahead of me, I find it hard to be cross. The reason is this: we did a family trip to San Diego for spring break and always got disoriented about halfway to where we were going, and for at least the first few days found the city remarkably confusing, but the Nav always knew where to go. The fact Nav wasn’t always right did not matter. Nav gave us directions and when we ended up in a cul-de-sac while she droned “turn left onto State Street,” we just said, “Hmm. That can’t be right, let’s try this…” and with no antagonism at all we figured it out. It was almost as if Nav wanted us to get away from the high pressure freeway or downtown situation and off to somewhere quiet to let us work on a solution. No one got angry or frustrated or had their feelings hurt. No one got sick. I even learned how to get Nav rolling with voice commands so I didn’t have to text or look at the phone while doing so. When we got where we were going we could do searches for food or other things to check out. It was remarkable. It wasn’t perfect, but the fact that my husband and I could relax on the road made a huge difference to the whole climate of the experience. We enjoyed each other’s company. Nav. How did we ever manage without her?

Maelstrom Drives

Fueled by caffeine and tunes (The Offspring’s Conspiracy of One album) I transform behind the wheel. My inner bad-ass is revealed. Maelstrom, my new alter-ego, is dark of spirit and quick to action; woe betide the wrongdoers caught in our path. Light as a whispered curse we dart down the highway as shadows and clouds are pulled toward us. Vultures circle. Bullies and thieves, hoodlums and malefactors are our prey. You, in the silver Ford Expedition, we have our eye on you. Make no mistake, you will suffer wretchedly should you swerve like that again. Watch it. The miles fly.

Eventually the album ends, my destination nears and I  must reluctantly resume my mild-mannered suburban mom identity. I switch tunes (Blue Man Group, The Complex album, which is still dark and energetic but less…punitive.) I tell myself to settle down as I try to flush the caffeine through my system with water and beef jerky. Four hours is too long on the Midwest highways for me, so I am lucky Maelstrom was around to take a turn at the wheel. Now she sleeps, but miscreants beware, for she shall return.


We took a driving trip to Yellowstone this summer, which means we crossed Minnesota, North Dakota and most of Montana. It was more beautiful than I had expected. The flooding Missouri River was alarming, the North Dakota Badlands were amazing and the Montana landscapes were breathtaking, too. At one point after we’d entered Montana, I noted that the horizon ahead of us was marked by jagged rock formations. I looked around and realized the the interstate bisected a large circular area completely ringed by tooth-like rock monoliths. Then I thought, what if we were inside the mouth of giant predatory geographic structure that would snap shut upon us like a stone-and-earth Venus Flytrap? That’s what I think about on long trips. What do you think about?