Call me a luddite. I like maps. To get to a new friend’s house yesterday, I mapped possible routes in advance on maps.google.com (okay, so I like paper maps, but I’m advanced enough technologically that I can see the advantage of google maps.) and then, pen in hand, wrote this information on a piece of paper.
I pride myself in my sense of direction. Especially when it’s sunny out.
Once off the highway, our destination proved madly elusive.
I make a phone call.
Our host: Are you using gps? Sometimes, gps sends people the wrong way.
Me: No, I used a map.
Our host: [deafening silence]
Our host: You mean, a paper map of Connecticut?
Me: I mean, I used google maps.
Our host: Oh, well then. Tell me what it said to do.
Me: It said go left on West.
Our host: Left?
Me: On West.
Our host: West?
Me: Who is on first?
After some miles, and “sightseeing”, we found our way there. Late.
We actually had a very nice dinner, and it was even at dinner time.
So before we left, I asked for directions. I “knew” what our host was describing, because we had taken those very steps about three times incorrectly on the way to their house. But whatever. Tom drove. We eventually got back to a highway onramp, which I could see from the bridge overhead, was stopped traffic.
“We can’t go on I-95. We have to go back to 395.” I said.
“Well, no, we have to cross the river, so we have to get on 95. What are you going to do? It’s traffic. It won’t last too long.”
I thought a moment. I have this thing in my bag, it’s a phone. It’s even one of those new fangled SMART PHONES. I remembered that I had, out of curiosity, installed an “app” called Waze. I had never used it. The icon was cute – I think that was what made me download it. That and “free.” I had taken the time to set it up (easy) a few months prior, but never took the time to learn it.
So, I turned it on.
It took a moment to load my location.
And then, all hell broke loose.
“Hey! It’s showing us on I-95! There we are!!! Look!”
“I can’t look. I’m driving.”
“Hey! There are like, twenty other Waze users stuck on this very bridge!!!”
“I’m sure there are.”
“Holy shit. This is so cool. This guys says we’re going 10 mph. Are we going 10? Confirm.”
“Now we’re going less than 20 mph, but more than 10. Construction. Hey, there’s construction, see this little hardhat guy? We should be coming up on construction in 5, 4, 3, 2…”
“there’s the construction.”
“Is there a cop? It says there a cop. Confirm? Thumbs up?”
“I don’t see a cop.”
“Okay, keep looking.”
“There’s usually a cop further up on the left…”
“OH MY GOD THERE’S THE COP HOLY CANOLI THIS IS LIKE, REAL TIME!!!”
“Yes, Thumbs Up! there is a cop there. Are we going 40 mph now?”
“We’re going 50.”
“Oh, now it says 50. Isn’t that incredible?”
“There’s like, twenty other Waze users in my immediate vicinity. Probably that guy, and that guy…”
“They do this while they’re driving?”
“Well, no, it’s probably the passenger.”
“Oh there’s a car broken down in Stonington. I know that’s like ten miles but I want you to be prepared.”
“OH NO LOOK THIS LITTLE PURPLE GUY IS WAVING! DO YOU SEE THAT?”
“No, I’m driving.”
“He’s coming up on our rear! He’s going to pass us!”
(A car zooms by on left. I wave hi across Tom’s field of vision.)
“He waved back. Huh.”
“NO WAY!!! This is incredible! So like, he WAVED on HERE, and it meant, WAVE! Like, for REAL wave! This is so exciting!”
It had been five minutes.
I was completely and utterly transmorgaphied.
“This thing is eating my battery!”
“There’s a charge plug right there.”
“[silence, because on Waze]”
“[silence, because his wife has been overtaken by Waze.]
“I have to stop.”
“Okay. So I am turning this off.”
“Do you know that they probably can collect this data, and then over a period of time, say you have like, I don’t know, 21 users per minute pass by a certain spot, they could compile the statistics from this and sell this data to the DOT and the DOT can then take this data and use it to make improvements or efficiencies or plan construction or, like, anything.”
I looked over at Tom. Why wasn’t he excited? This was very exciting!
“Aren’t you excited???”
And then, I realized what I had become.
In five minutes, I had gone from new user to acolyte to all,
Real time social collective, onscreen. While it was happening right in front of the windshield. I recalled the days of radar detectors and CB radio. I remember thinking how cool it was that there were people out there, talking to other people, long into the night.
And do you remember when the internet came into our lives? I remember Prodigy. Typing into the night, “Hello? Is anyone out there?”
They’re out there. And they are waving at us! Really!