No Direction Home

“I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you…”

-HAL 9000, the cyber-intelligent, annoyingly serene, and, well, man-killing computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey

My husband and I are the proud owners of a GPS whom I’ve affectionately nicknamed ‘Hal,’ after the uncooperative, onboard computer in 2001. This is because sometimes, like Hal, the GPS just doesn’t steer me right, and I want to, like astronaut Dave in the movie, tell it just to shut up and open the freaking pod bay doors.

That aside, here I am in 2010, and I ask you, who goes on a camping trip to a rural campsite she’s never been to before and doesn’t take along the handy GPS that her husband bought for himself as retail therapy, knowing that for all of its Hal-like tendencies, it’ll still get me home? Oh, um, that would be me.

Yup, I just returned yesterday from a weekend Girl Scout camp-out, and when I say “returned” I mean that, driving home, the seat of my pants got a real workout. I was in a two-vehicle caravan behind someone with a GPS until said person turned into a convenience store for I don’t know what…and I decided not to follow because surely I could find the way myself…and then I sorta thought the road would be right up there and…BLLLLARRRGH!!! WHERE AM I?!?!??!!?!

Here’s the thing. I had two sets of written directions. They outlined different routes, but it’s not like the roads reshuffle and reset themselves. I figured I’d use one set of directions and stick with it. How hard could that be, right?

Well, I handed the directions back to my daughter and her friend, figuring they could learn how to navigate. My directions were only “TO” the camp, but I figured that with a pen and some reversing skills, we could figure out the “FROM” directions pretty readily. That worked for about 5 miles, until a street sign hosed me up, and I realized that the road we were looking for was the road we were already on, and then I grabbed the directions back from the kids because doing the directions backwards started to seem like a really BAD idea—and not because of the girls. I suspect that if at that moment I had popped in my Abbey Road CD and played it backwards, I would have heard a wonky repetition of an undead Paul McCartney repeating “You are lost…you are lost…you are lost” while, in the background, George Harrison’s weeping guitar would have transformed into an eerily threatening banjo.

But here’s the thing that, if I didn’t already have a personal faith in God, would have made me seriously consider adopting one. As we drove, we just kept finding roads that we were looking for. They weren’t in the order that the directions said they would be (weird). And they weren’t as long as the directions said they would be (also weird). But they drove us right past a house that I’ve been to a bunch of times (that we didn’t pass on the way there). And once I found that place, we were home free! And here’s the crazy part—the seat of our pants (and, I suspect, skin of our teeth) route took us no longer than the route we’d taken to get there.

I attribute my rapid and safe return to two possible causes. (1) You can’t get lost in Delaware. If you keep driving you’ll either hit water, Route 13, or New Jersey, so you can’t really go far wrong. But I was coming from Maryland, so I’ve developed theory number (2) –a bending of the space-time continuum…and I think Hal, my GPS, was behind it. He may have been at home, switched off, but really, he’s got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And, despite his homicidal image, he just wants to help.