Rheta Johnson: Lost as a goose on GPS

February 16, 2013 8:33:05 PM

Rheta Grimsley Johnson -


PASS CHRISTIAN -- Four different groups have ventured to our new holiday home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. One found it. 


I've carefully typed out the same detailed instructions for all travelers, giving the benefit of my considerable experience finding the shortest route. All four carloads ignored my directions and relied on some kind of global positioning gadget in their computers, telephones or cars. 


The last visitors to not arrive on time were my best friends from Louisiana. They love high-tech gizmos. And though I mailed directions and a photograph of my house, they left all that behind after asking a granddaughter to enter my address into something they call the Garmin. 


About an hour after they were due -- who knows where they'd already been? -- John called from his cellphone. 


"Where are you?" he asked, testily. 


"I'm home," I answered. "Where are you?" 


"The Garmin says we've arrived at our destination, but you're not here. And this isn't your house, but it is the right destination," John insisted.  


"Are you on my street?" I asked, looking outside, seeing nothing. 


"Yes. At 1141. But you're not here." 


"No, I'm not. Because that's not my house. Do you have my house number? 


"No," he said, almost angrily. "Julie put it in the Garmin." 


"It's 1425, not 1141. Keep heading east. I'll stand by the mailbox and wave." 


Meanwhile, the stranger at 1141 came outside and stared suspiciously at the people parked in her drive. That scared John's wife, who is timid, and she backed out too fast and hit a live oak, bending her bumper. 


"Why didn't you use the directions I mailed you?" I asked when they arrived. 


"Oh, no," they both insisted. "The Garmin gets you there every time." 


It's not that I'm against all technology. I approve of icemakers. But ours is the only generation that believes with the advent of something new you must throw out everything that came before. Because we now have computers, you must quit using your eyes and ears and brains. 


When the automobile was invented, they didn't shoot all the horses. When the airplane came along, nobody junked every car. When man stepped on the moon, we didn't all abandon earth. 


Somehow this is all connected with last week's announcement that the U.S. Postal Service will no longer make Saturday deliveries. That's because so many use emails exclusively and have stopped writing real letters. More alarming, 70 percent of the American public doesn't care whether the post office delivers on Saturday or not. 


I find that incredible. Not everyone has a computer or gets email. Not yet. Those poor out-of-step folks cannot get their mail online, their news online or even find botched directions online.  


Things I love are expanding the scrapheap. Newspapers, real letters, camera film, landline telephones, maps that fold, books that open. Directions that get you there. Some days it feels as if I've been personally targeted. 


If something works, that's one thing. But if you're sitting in a stranger's driveway thinking you've arrived, perhaps you should reconsider.