Monday, June 17, 2013

GPS Versus GPS: (Global Positioning System Versus Gypsy Pride Syndrome)

A family travel tale by Julia Buckley
Like Sheila, I recently went on a trip--not to beautiful Northern Italy, but to undeniably lovely Northern Indiana--Kokomo, to be precise--to attend my niece's wedding.  Our route led us through golden fields, past stately grain silos and ancient barns, and through towns with bizarre claims to fame such as "largest praying mantis statue" and "smallest chapel."  (I tried to get a picture of the tiny chapel, but my sons, groggy from hours in the car, responded to this idea with great hostility).

Because I don't know this area well, I asked if I could follow my father, who is a full-blooded Hungarian and a gypsy at heart. (That's his car in the photo above). Nothing makes him happier than the open road.  When my siblings and I were young, we always climbed into our car after Sunday church with some trepidation, because we never knew if Dad was going to take us captive children on a "family drive" which often had us going miles away from home to find some adventure--cows in a pasture, or a narrow dirt lane (Let's see where it leads!), or some wooded path to explore on foot.

A country cemetery.
 This trip was no different, because my dad had said, "Sure, you can follow us, but we just want to stop at Corky's on the way."  Corky (aka Dorothy) was an old friend and colleague of my father's; she used to babysit us when she was young, and we all attended her wedding to LaVerne Koehn.  So today, "on the way" to my niece's wedding, we were going to sidetrack to visit Corky and LaVerne.

A barn in Corky's town.

Dutiful, we followed my father off of Route 65 and into a tiny, sleepy town with beautifully landscaped lawns.    We drove down a street and then off of it again, and then down that same street.  Then it dawned on me; my father was lost.  He would never say "lost."  He would call it "briefly uncertain."  My father never feels lost, a state which I find myself envying regularly.  We pulled up next to him and said, "What's up?"

He was studying a map.  "I'm a little turned around," he said.  

"Why don't you call her?" I said.

My father looked put out, but he did so.  LaVerne, who probably would have sided with my father about holding out for directional inspiration, said that it was easier for him to come and escort us rather than telling us the way over the phone.  So, two minutes later, LaVerne appeared in his car, and we two other cars trailed after him until we reached their sweet little house.

A church in Corky's town.

Corky, looking the same to me, even after thirty years, came out to greet us.  Leaning on a car in front of the house was my sister, another family traveler, who routinely makes the fourteen-hour drive down from Virginia for family events.  She seemed upset that my father had not found his way.

"Dad," she said.  "Where's the GPS system I gave you for Christmas?"

My father shrugged.  "In the trunk."

She made a noise that suggested aggravation.  "Dad.  How is it going to help you in the trunk?"

My father shrugged again.  "I have GPS," he said, pointing at his forehead.

A lovely grape arbor in--you guessed it--Corky's town.

My sister sighed noisily and we all went inside, where Corky had said out a freshly-made streusel-topped coffee cake, a giant glass jar full of chocolate-chip cookies, a giant glass pitcher of lemonade, and creme puffs.  "Help yourselves," she said.  

But first we toured her lovely back yard, a true child's paradise with a big playhouse and a sandbox and endless fun games.  Her three grandchildren ran around enjoying themselves, and we enjoyed her grandchildren.

My sons with the littlest grandchild--a boy named Liam.

But the scuffle over the GPS wasn't over.  Dad and LaVerne were consulting a map to find the best way to Kokomo (and the fastest, since we were a bit behind).  My sister, confident in technology, waved the map away.  "I'll go first," she said.  "I have GPS, and you can all just follow me."

My father sent her a significant glare.  "NO, we will not, because LaVerne just told me several shortcuts that your GPS doesn't know.  So we'll go with the local information."

LaVerne and Dad

Now it was my sister's turn to shrug.  She knew well enough that you don't tell a gypsy-hearted traveler how to get where he's going, and you certainly don't tell him to let a computer do it for him.

So we followed my father once again, and his instincts were pretty good.  But later, on the way to the restaurant, he forced me to follow him through a U-turn because he somehow passed the desired street.

Being only half-gypsy myself, I might still be tempted to buy a GPS--but my dad would say that takes all the fun out of the ride.


Sheila Connolly said...

My stepfather, born and raised in New Jersey, knew all the back ways everywhere in the state. What's more, he could add color commentary, like "that's where the [name withdrawn!] family used to cremate their victims" or "the Mob torched that restaurant there when they wouldn't keep up on their protection payments."

My father lived in Lancaster County, PA for years, and did not hesitate to voice his opinions about the driving habits of the local Amish farmers. I kept my mouth shut, but really--that was a horse-drawn buggy, you know?

GPS just isn't the same.

Julia Buckley said...

It's true. And it widens the generational gap, somehow.

JJM said...

On the other hand, you can install the GPS for practicality -- then spend your time berating it for being uppity, in honour of your father ... (^_^)

Julia Buckley said...

That's true, JJM--and of course I HAVE heard of GPS systems giving terrible directions. :)