Last weekend, we found ourselves trekking to two destinations on the city's outskirts: one in Kanata, and one in Barrhaven. Though our vehicle is not equipped with a factory pre-installed GPS, we do have a TomTom which we pull from the glove box once or twice a month to help us locate destinations we are unfamiliar with. On those occasions when we do use the GPS, we program our destinations into the device BEFORE we pull out of the driveway. The unit seems to plan the route more quickly if the vehicle is stationary and, more importantly, anyone who actually tries to punch data into a GPS while driving is likely a very dangerous driver. (Accessing the touch screen on these devices is difficult enough in a stationary vehicle, let alone in a moving one.)
As we proceeded down Walkley Road towards the 417, the TomTom blasted out a series of warning beeps, an audible indicator that the vehicle had exceeded the posted speed limit. I believe the TomTom's threshold defaults to 10%, which means Nancy must have reached 66kph in the 60kph posted zone. "Easy on the hammer there Lead Foot Jane," I muttered, one from a collection of peanut gallery comments I have from my backseat driver repertoire. Speed warning alerts are a common feature on many GPS units nowadays. And our use of the GPS last weekend reminded me of a story a long-time acquaintance told me over lunch one day; a story which I've been meaning to share for some time now. And though I've relied on artistic license to approximate the story's dialogue, the veracity of the underlying tale remains in tact.
Fred and Melanie are an older couple that have shared numerous adventures. When I say they are older, I do not mean they are old. Rather, I mean that they are slightly more advanced in years than I am and, as a consequence, somewhat more travelled. Though age is as much a reflection of mental state as it is a function of biology and chronology, refined humour is an amalgam of age-derived wisdom and youth of mind. Fred possesses both those qualities. A seasoned highway driver, he is accustomed to multi-day drives; a characteristic common to the retired migratory snowbird. With interests in Canada, Florida and the Carolinas, Fred and Mel regularly take to the highways and byways, searching out new adventures. Fred does the driving and Mel does the talking which, I'm led to believe, includes an ongoing colour commentary on everything and nothing. One day, as the intrepid travellers rolled along Route 17 out of North Carolina, Mel's attention was suddenly diverted from her commentary to a barrage of beeping noise emanating from the GPS which was firmly attached to the dashboard of the car.
"Why does that thing keep beeping?" Mel asked.
"It's a built-in security feature on the unit," Fred responded. "It picks up background noise in the car and if music is too loud, or if passengers are talking too much, it sounds a warning alarm that the driver is being distracted.
Mel, a bit taken aback by the prejudicial technology, became uncharacteristically quiet. Fred slowed the car down, just slightly, and the speed warning alarm self-muted. About five minutes later, Mel commented on how green some of the pastures were. A moment later, she noted how many Holsteins were laying down in a farmer's field. Shortly thereafter, she opined that cows laying down in a field were a good predictor of rain and how odd it was that sometimes you'd see birds landing on a cow's back. "Docile beasts," she asserted.
Fred's right foot gently eased down on the accelerator and moments later the GPS alarm sounded once again....
Submitted by Jeff Dubois, 31 August 2015