When Navigators Go Bad…

I started out positive: I am driving to San Francisco airport, to pick someone up.

I have SFO phobia: the parking garage entrances, levels and roundabouts put Mad-Scientist Rat-Maze Creators to shame. The good news: it’s during the day.  I can see the airport from the freeway. The bad news: it will be the height of rush hour traffic when I hit the section in which you must change freeways three times in a mile and a half.

It will be rush hour on all three freeways.

I can feel the anxiety building.

Coping strategy #1: Over Plan

  1. Remind self I can read. The freeway is littered with helpful signs saying “Airport, This Way”.
  2. Paper map: in car.
  3. Check SFO website for possible “renovation” detours: all clear.
  4. Test navigator, to make sure it’s working: FYI, new place has GOOD ice cream!
  5. Double check I have all car/cell plugs and ear piece: charged and ready.
  6. Print out of flight info: check
  7. Visualize my favorite parts of the drive: beautiful!
  8. Call Daisy, sob hysterically, moan “I’m LOST!  I’m LOST!” (preparations include “pre-panicking”, so if I run into a glitch, I can remind myself I’ve already panicked: don’t need to do it again.)
  9. Daisy promises to be my backup, available by phone for consultation. She’s the best therapist friend ever!
  10. Stock the car with Diet Coke. Caffeine.

Coping strategy #2: Denial

  1. This is easy.
  2. I’m going to be fine.
  3. I will enjoy the drive.
  4. Hey, I’m leaving 3 hours early, in case I get lost.  What could go wrong?
  5. I might even get there early enough to kill Zombies!

You can’t reason with a Phobia.  They fight you for the neurological driver’s seat, and the best one can do is respond to the ensuing stupid, idiotic, embarrassing panic is to remind Phobia there are back ups to the back ups.  I’ve over planned, Daisy is on call, paper maps, and a voice in my ear directing: “In two miles, take exit 43B and prepare to turn left.”

Once I’m on US 101 south to San Francisco, I roll my shoulders, tell myself to relax and enjoy the beautiful day.  This goes incredibly well.  I relax.


Smack in the middle of 101 (the only freeway to SF), my navigator says: recalculating route: take the Avalon drive exit.

There no Avalon Drive exit. There are no exits. Unless you count the one coming up in ten miles. I haven’t changed the route.  Why recalculate?

Make the first legal U-Turn!  Make the first legal U-Turn!

Ten miles later, I pull off, check the address in the navigator, guessing I accidentally hit wrong destination button.

The destination read-out: San Francisco Airport.  I press the “Announce” button. Without a qualm, it says “recalculating route: make the first legal U-turn, take the freeway entrance on the right onto US 101 South, continue on  for 43 miles”. Weird.  That’s correct.

The navigator is completely silent for 22 more miles. I’m still on 101 when it ambushes me: recalculating route, make the next legal U-turn…

For Pete’s sake, I haven’t even hit the Golden Gate bridge yet. Check destination again: SFO.

I ignore navigator, keep driving. It shuts up. I shouldn’t hear more instructions until I’m over the bridge, ready to take 19th street and cut through Golden Gate Park.

In 2.5 miles, stay on US 101 south, merge onto Golden Gate bridge.

Good. It’s back to normal.

I’m in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge when it says, alarmingly:

Recalculating route: make the next legal U-turn!

Not feeling particularly suicidal.  Not going U-turn in the middle of the bridge.

My phobia whispers: I told you. I told you if you drive to SFO, you’re going to get lost and die in the wilderness.

My comeback: Yup, going to die in the wilderness of a major metropolitan city.

The navigator correctly guides me through the 3 quick-change freeway maze. Great!

I come to a huge sign: SFO Next Exit.

The navigator is silent.  I wait for it to speak.  Here’s the problem.  The first exit is always wrong. Bad signage: you see the sign meant for the freeway parallel to you, not the one you are on.  I need to take the second SFO Exit.

I pass the first SFO exit. As I shoot past the airport, I realize CalTrans must have changed the confusing sign.

I get off at the next exit, no idea how to turn around, or if there will be a corresponding airport exit going North.

The Evil Navigator speaks: recalculating route…

I want to slap it: it was silent at the correct exit.  But. I follow instructions. Within 2 minutes I’m on Domestic Terminal Drive, winding deep into the bowels of the soul-sucking parking garage.

I take great joy in turning off the navigator.

I’m okay: I read the sign “Domestic Terminal” and wonder where they keep the Undomesticated Terminal.

I’ve always wanted to see an airport terminal in the wild.

Evil Navigator update: the battery on my cell phone won’t hold a charge, and I’ve been worried my powers of battery destruction have now extended to my cell. Nooooooo! Despite turning the Navigator off, it’s been telling me (haven’t worn ear piece) how to get to SFO since last Friday.

Recalculating route…

14 thoughts on “When Navigators Go Bad…

  1. I vote for the “Airporter” next time.

    There is this sneaky little glitch in Navigators…. they are only as good as the latest expensive update.

  2. I have a weird relationship with my GPS. I talk to her. And argue. And yell. I threaten to break up and yet she continues to speak with her precise pronounciation and oh-so-slightly-disapproving tone. Like there are things that she would LOVE to say but is just too well bred.

    I want the sarcastic GPS. You know , the one that makes comments like:
    “your other left, stupid”
    ” recalculating route. AGAIN.”
    “if you are not going to listen to me, then why am I here? Am I just to decorate your dashboard? Well I am not just a machine. I have feelings, needs and hopes. Like the quickly waning hope that we will reach our destination before you run out of gas”
    “you’re speeding. SLOW DOWN. don’t make me call your mother”
    “you need to pee again? Shouldn’t you get that checked”


    1. This is way funnier than the post! I think you need to patent that GPS system. You know we’d all buy it. There’s nothing like a little laughter to break the tension of a long trip or getting lost. You’d be rich!

  3. Best laugh of the day, so far. You have a SFP phobia – I have a GPS phobia. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve reenacted that very same scenario in my own car. I gave up and went back to wandering aimlessly until I recognize something.

  4. I’m beginning to think that all GPS are evil. Mine once took me the backback way from my grandmother’s house to my college. I’m telling you, this route was the road equivalent of 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon at a strip club. I find out later its a postal road, not even meant for actual traffic, and its all on private property. In rural southwest Virginia. I’m lucky I wasn’t shot.

  5. Hmmmm…. I think that when we fly in to visit son in SF we’ll leave the GPS at home and hop on BART! Or, since Literary Horse knows the way, maybe she will ‘gallop’ on down to meet us and take us into the city!!!

  6. Timely post, I was just at SFO yesterday! Had no trouble finding the airport, but once we were there we did at least three laps around it trying to find the rental car return. I was quite bemused by the number of people who were riding bicycles recreationally around the airport. I know it was recreational, because they were wearing those dorky bicycle outfits. If you live in one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S., why would you bicycle around the airport?!

  7. This post reminded me of one that I should do, about a phobia of my own. Thanks!

    And sorry about the evil gps, I could get lost in my own driveway. I used to sob hysterically whenever this happened, which made it very difficult to find my way. Now I just sigh. Lost. Again. Go figure.

  8. As I drove past the driveway (the one I was supposed to turn into) the other day, I heard “turn left here” half a mile past the address. This unhelpful suggestion came as I searched for a place to turn around on the very skinny, very rural country road. There was, of course, absolutely NOTHING at the place that little heifer told me to turn either (she’s quite sneaky).

  9. Aw.

    I remember when my GPS merely tried to get me lost. Those were the good old days.

    Now mine is outright homicidal.

    Just think of all the fun you have to look forward to. Driving into lakes…. dispensing with “legal U-turn” advice and going straight to “drive the wrong way on the freeway…”

    Oh yeah. Just wait. The fun is only beginning…

  10. You were in a car, right? Not an enormous truck in after-dark Christmas rush hour? Pfffft girl you had it easy. 😉

    Hate it when the GPS flakes out on me though. I hear that awful British woman saying “recalculating… recalculating” in my nightmares!

  11. We had the (hilarious) experience of a GPS Navigator directing us to turn right NOW NOW NOW NOW. The only thing to the right of us was a pasture. Containing a bull….

  12. I’m trying to be sympathetic but HAHAHAHA. Sorry. Had to. SFO isn’t that bad, is it? I’ve traveled in and out of there so often. Oh, wait, you’re right. I have missed the exit before and I’m usually coming from the south. You should come drive in Bangkok highways for a day.. it’ll snap you right into coping strategy #3: just rolling with it. The highways here don’t have simple exit ramps.. the highways always at least three ramps at the same point, with signage that doesn’t really tell you where each ramp is going and which one is the same highway if you’re not exiting. And GPS is more confused than me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s