Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mark my words, I'm buying a GPS.

This will involve two of my least favorite things: admitting I have limitations and spending a largish sum of money. I recognize that there are glitches in mental wiring like dyslexia and discalulia that make skills like reading or math far more challenging, but I've spent years trying to tell myself that my total lack of directional sense was something I just needed to figure out how to fix. At this point, I'm willing to give up and admit defeat.

I was reading some Heinlein a few months ago, and the aspect of the fantasy I found most fantastic wasn't outside the realm of the normal: the protagonist had an unerring sense of direction. Forget interstellar teleportation, dragons to slay, and a beautiful sorceress eager to marry me and just as eager to let me go bed others, I want that! Alas, I'm still perpetually lost.

I don't think it's a lack of spacial skills, not exactly, anyway. I managed to test above average on the portion of the junior high aptitude test that required mentally folding diagrams into their corresponding three-dimensional objects and rotating those objects in my mind. I just don't have the ability to orient myself in space. That annoying gap in my reasoning that makes finding my way back to the correct road once I'm off of it almost excruciatingly difficult. This eventually leads to panic as wrong turn after wrong turn takes me farther and farther from any remotely recognizable landmark.

Over the years, I've managed to cope. On foot or bicycle, it isn't that bad. You can slow down enough to really look around, and if worst comes to worst, people getting their mail or walking their dogs are pretty friendly when lost pedestrians finally break down to beg for directions. When driving, however, it's pretty nasty.

My mother firmly believes that this, like so many problems in my life, will be solved once some magical nagging quota has been reached and I finally decide to do what she's been telling me to do all along, in this case pay attention. Paying attention and repetition do help. I reached the point where I was able to navigate my hometown and certain sections of my college city fairly well, largely because I'd devoted enough hours to wandering them on foot and trying to memorize enough to put together a mental map. Mapquest, Google maps, and the like do offer some benefit when I have to get somewhere new, but when I manage to screw up by taking a wrong turn, or when the direction is missing some crucial component, like that the road will split and I need to be in the left lane when it does, and by the time I realize this (if I do) nobody will let me over, I'm doomed.

I had one of those little compasses with a suction cup to stick to my windshield, but I accidentally left it in my mother's car when I returned it, and it was of limited use anyway. If I knew I needed to be on highway Y north, I could confirm for myself eighty seven times in the course of my journey that I had in fact turned the correct way when I'd gotten onto the highway, but once I managed to get myself lost, knowing which way north was was generally not all that beneficial since I had no idea which way I was supposed to be going. Road atlases are okay for determining which interstates intersect in which cities, but they are darn near useless to me when I'm actually in those cities, whizzing along at sixty miles per hour, and have just missed my exit.

All this was hammered home to me last night when, after two rather unpleasant days of school in a row, I decided a brief escape would be good for my sanity. I headed to the bustling metropolis of Southhaven, Mississippi with no real plan in mind other than to go be somewhere that wasn't here. I thought perhaps I'd see a movie since I've had a free pass in my wallet for months, but everything I wanted to see didn't take passes so I treated myself to dinner at Chick-fil-a and did a bit of shopping without actually buying anything. That was all lovely, but the getting turned around umpteen times wasn't. I ended up accidentally in Memphis twice. The trip home became even less fun after I took a seemingly logical turn and found myself on a bumpy, poorly maintained little road leading to a tiny town in Mississippi, then managed to get even more turned around in my attempt to get back to the highway and instead found myself on an otherwise empty road in the middle of the night, hurtling toward nothing, surrounded by only empty fields as far as the eye could see. I turned around at the first opportunity, made my way back to the tiny town where I'd gone astray, located a sign telling me what town I was in, briefly pondered calling my boyfriend and/or mother and waking them up in the hopes that they could use Google to help me find my way back to civilization, or at least the highway, but I ultimately made it home on my own and fell into bed, utterly drained from my little adventure.

So I'll read some reviews, compare prices, and try to get a good deal on a global positioning system, but at this point, I really don't care what it costs.


Anonymous said...

I have a terrible sense of direction when I'm driving, so I know where you're coming from. I bought a car last year that had GPS built in, and it is an absolute godsend. Having a voice in the car that tells me to "prepare to turn left," and "take the second right" is huge. Even more huge is the fact that it reorients and gets me back on track on the occasions when I manage to miss a turn despite being told that it's coming up. Altogether, it's made driving a lot less stressful for me.

A GPS system isn't perfect. I've run into a few snags when driving in new construction or trying to reach an address on a street with two names. (For example, when the town's street name is Broadway, but the state's name for the same street is US 36.) That said, I love my GPS system. It's saved me from myself more times than I can count.

...all of which is a very long-winded way of saying that I think you're making a smart choice, and it's a worthwhile expenditure. Good luck!

Fabulously Broke said...

I suggest Garmin as the company, and I did tons of research on what they offered.

TomTom is another forerunner but their mapping system sucks. my sister has their GPS and it's confusing.

The Garmin Nuvi 255W (W = Widescreen) GPS is around $350 CAD (at least that's what I paid) and is the best GPS to date. Plus it went on a sale a while back.

It does what it needs to do (get you there) in a clear fashion, speaks road names, is open for North America and I use it every time I'm in a car in an unfamiliar place.

Review here: Garmin Nuvi 255W

Mary Sue said...

I like the Garmin.

I don't have a Garmin, but I was playing with my 'rents a few weekends ago. Very intuitive.

Anonymous said...

I have a horrible sense of direction. A few years ago I bought a Garmin Nuvi. They're less expensive now, and totally worth it!
Be sure to get one that speaks the street name.
Love it, worth every cent!

DogAteMyFinances said...

Good call! They're a lot cheaper now! I have a Garmin. If I were doing it again, I would buy a Garmin from Costco. They always have one on special.

Frugal Scholar said...

Costco has a Garmin for around $130. Is this a good one? I have the same affliction and our Tomtom doesn't work for me, but perhaps nothing could work.