COLUMN: Using a challenge to the oxymoron

On one of the infrequent occasions that I drive the vehicle owned by the one who shares a roof with me, I asked her to turn on the GPS unit.

On one of the infrequent occasions that I drive the vehicle owned by the one who shares a roof with me, I asked her to turn on the GPS unit. While not unfamiliar with the handheld units that one uses to ensure a walk in the woods doesn’t result in a call to search and rescue, I have had little to do with those car-mounted units that tell you, turn by turn, where to go. I might add that I am not unfamiliar with that phrase either, though usually it is used in different context.

So our trip to Langley was entered into the GPS’s ‘brain’ and off we went.

“Does it verbally abuse me if I take a wrong turn?” was my first question. Apparently not, though the voice directing the route does inform that it is ‘recalibrating’ every time I don’t go where it says.

The voice is also “American English” which means that when indicating a turn onto “Route 1” she says ‘rowt’ instead of ‘root’ . . . slightly annoying, but then I pronounce schedule as ‘shedjewl’ rather than ‘skedyule’ and always get irked when I hear someone say or write that they ‘ran the gauntlet’ rather than the ‘gantlet.’ The first is a glove, the second the line you run down while others try to beat you with sticks. It’s an ancient method of serving penance, though through word misuse, apparently gauntlet is now acceptable.

However, I digress with distractions.

Which, I found, is what a vehicle-mounted GPS is … somewhat distracting, watching the road unfurl before you on the screen rather than through the windshield.

At any rate, it also provides much more than just accurate directions – like how fast I’m driving. Right beside the little box with the posted speed of the highway is another with your travel speed, and when you exceed the limit it glows red.

You don’t get extra points for maintaining that box in the red throughout the trip, but neither do you get admonishment (unless, of course, police radar happens to intervene).

The unit also has an integral altimeter, which can provide some rather interesting conversation, especially when it told us that on Glover Road just before the Langley Bypass we were six metres below sea level!

Now I know a little about altimeters and barometric pressure, and know that they are not only very handy, particularly when skydiving, but they need to be calibrated according to the weather.

Depending on the pressure, they can be out significantly, as I assume it was on Sunday rolling through Langley.

Then again, if Langley really is that far below sea level, I’d want to have more than hip waders close by should a major tsunami threaten Boundary Bay and the dikes that protect the lowlands that stretch from the ocean right into that city’s downtown core.

So, the altimeter may need a little tweaking (or maybe the GPS does it all by itself since, thanks to satellites, it knows where I live and, with a few prompts, where I want to go).

But would I get one for my truck?

Doubtful. I’m a guy.

Guys never get lost, can always find their way, and never need to ask for directions (and if that isn’t an oxymoron, with stress on the ‘moron,’ I don’t know what is!)

Therefore, I’m guessing that under the tree next Christmas there may be a little package with my name on it, just to provide on-route entertainment since I obviously don’t need help with directions.