Joco Diversions

Technology is her last resort when it comes to navigation

Traffic in downtown Kansas City.
Traffic in downtown Kansas City.

Despite the construction blockades, the maddening heat of the day, the tangled linguine of intersecting highways and the lack of obvious parking options, we arrived at the downtown address on time. Only because I turned off Siri.

Minutes before, my cell told us to take exit 2U, or was it 2V? The voice wasn’t keeping up with the fast-moving traffic flow of cars that would not let us switch lanes. We ended up missing the exit, then recalibrating back to our destination-ish. The phone delivered us to the north side of the Kansas City Convention Center, even though I knew we had to be south, literally on the other side of the highway.

I was done and ready for some old-fashioned getting there, so I tapped the “End Route” button. My husband was behind the wheel busy avoiding construction cones, so I was the navigator.

It was time to rely on my memory of the downtown parking map I had studied the night before. I spotted my landmark and knew there would be a small but convenient-as-heck lot just around the corner. We zipped right in and headed to the proper end of the crazy behemoth complex.

If you’re not familiar, the KC Convention Center is a colossal structure that’s actually built above and beyond one of the strands of Kansas City’s interstate pasta thruways. If you enter the building on the wrong end, you might need to summon an Uber to get to the right spot.

As a person who has always been open to fumbling through and eventually adapting to what the cyber world has to offer, road navigation remains my final frontier of full tech-absorption. I’m still having trouble letting go of the old ways. And often my stubbornness pays off. Or maybe not. I don’t know.

It’s simple: My internal homing pigeon does not want to completely rely on a disembodied voice telling me where to go. I want to map out my journey first with a physical preview. Where are the landmarks, the one-way roads, the bridges, rivers and estuaries?

My 20-something sons roll their eyes when they see me peering at the varicose veins of an actual Rand McNally atlas. And they think I’m nuts to pre-game with a pixelated desktop map. But I believe they trust “the voice” a bit too much. (A few years ago I wrote about how in another state, Siri landed me and my husband not at our hotel, but at a tattoo parlor. A memory forever stamped on my mind.)

My family knows I’m one of those “good sense of direction” people, especially when I study the terrain before the journey. Once I get the lay of the land, my brain is my compass. However, detours, distractions, motion sickness, storms and curvy roads happen. Life is not always a grid pattern. So with these obstacles in mind I like to have back-up travel data in the following order:

Another person with me who knows exactly where to go. (This never happens.)

Printed out or handwritten directions.

OK, if we must, Siri.

Lately, though, the voice on the phone has been creeping into my life more and more. Days after the downtown near-debacle, I used my phone GPS again. For backup. Even though I had the map in my head and brief written directions.

Unlike the millennials I know, I’m not laid back enough to just shrug and assume the bot on my phone will be reliable. The most solid thing, I think, is having a good idea where you’re going before you hit the gas. I think young drivers are one solar flare away from not making a left turn in Albuquerque.

But as my sons would argue, if you still print out Mapquest directions, you’ve gone too far.

Reach Denise Snodell at stripmalltree@gmail.com or on Twitter @DeniseSnodell

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