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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The Global Persnicketing System

I may have mentioned, somewhere in the deep and rich history of this site, my uncanny navigational skill.

Then again, I may not. Because my uncanny navigational skill is an idiot.

“If I come upon two roads diverging in a yellow wood, then I might as well set the whole goddamned forest on fire, because I’m screwed.”

Oh, it’s uncanny. Don’t get me wrong. It has the singular and unflappable ability to point me in the worst possible direction at the worst possible time — and often at precisely the most inappropriate breakneck speed. If there’s an onramp to a turnpike leading in completely the wrong direction, I’ll take it. If a street logically appears to be a shortcut, it will instead be a cul de sac. With a sinkhole. And tire spikes. And Godzilla. If I come upon two roads diverging in a yellow wood, then I might as well set the whole goddamned forest on fire, because I’m screwed. And nothing will make a lick of difference.

I suppose what I’m saying is that there are people in the world who can navigate purely by instinct, like a sailor charting his path by the stars. I navigate more like a four-year-old kid in a sailor suit. If it’s anywhere beyond my enormous novelty wowwypop, I probably can’t find it. And I might need a diaper change by the time we’re through.

This is why — for a while — I was so thoroughly tickled when GPS units became readily available. Finally, there was a little doohickey — and one that wasn’t an effing astrolabe, damn those stupid smug-assed seamen — that could help me get from Point A to Point B without visiting Points D, J, Q through V and 7 first. When I first got my very own GPS system for the car, I wept.

Now here we are, just a few short years later, and I have a GPS system built into the car itself, right in the dashboard. And still — as recently as tonight — I weep. Because I’m entirely dependent on the device to point me toward any unknown location where I need to be. And as it turns out, the GPS is also an idiot.

I could really use that wowwypop right about now.

Tonight is a perfect example. I had somewhere to be this evening. A place I’d never been before, but with a clear and concise address — number, street and town — and plenty of time to get there. Or so I thought. Hell, so the GPS thought. I punched in the coordinates, hit the ‘MAKE IT SO‘ button, and asked my inanimate squawk box for directions. It set a course — for adventure, naturally — and told me that the trip would take approximately thirty-eight minutes.

Then it told me to drive through Harvard Square. In rush hour traffic. I could race a retarded inchworm through the neighborhood faster than cars move through that nightmare. And yet, I followed the directions. Because the alternative is taking off by myself, determining the approximate compass position in which to travel, locating an alternate major road on the GPS map, and somehow winding up in Toledo, O-stupid-hio. Because I navigate approximately as well as Yoda pole dances.

(To be fair, I suppose I’ve never seen Yoda pole dance. But come on. He’s like a little jaundiced bigeared midget. How good could he be?

Imagining now you are Master Yoda, wearing nothing but pasties and a light saber, yes? Oh, you will be.

You. WILL BE.)

Anyway, I stayed the course. And sat in gridlock traffic, while the GPS acted like that stoner guy back in college who tried to be all ‘helpful’, but forgot that he doesn’t understand how anything in the real big-boy pants adult world works. “Aw, maaaaan. Who knew there’d be traffic, like, in Harvard Square! I mean, road traffic. At six in the evening. Duuuuuuude.

At the magical estimated arrival time of thirty-eight minutes in, I was not, in fact, safely perched at my destination. I was not close to my destination. What I was was sandwiched between two minivans outside some campus sushi joint because our light turns green once every fourteen minutes and Joe Beemer on the cross street doesn’t believe the ‘DON’T BLOCK THE EVERLOVING BOX, YOU INSUFFERABLE YUPPIE SHITHEAD‘ sign applies to him.

Finally, the traffic relented a little and I thought I was in the clear. But no. That’s when the GPS decided to whirl me around the most ridiculous series of roundabout traffic circles this side of a NASCAR track:

Take the third exit in the circle…

Next, you’ll find a traffic circle. Take the second exit…

Continue onto the fourth road in the circle…

Approach the traffic circle. And pick a winner — they’re all wrong!

At one point, I just went around and around while it chanted ‘recalculating…‘ like some autistic Rain Man autobot stuck in an endless loop. I felt like I’d been dropped onto a pottery wheel in the fifth circle of Hell, where nobody uses their turn signal and all the vehicles have bumper stickers like ‘MY OTHER CAR IS YOUR MOM‘.

Finally, the box came to its limited senses, shouted ‘TURN NOW, JACKASS!‘ and we rode some kind of construction equipment dirt access road to freedom. Where ‘freedom’ means another ten minutes of driving, and getting to my appointment a half hour late. Because in my world, that’s about the best thing it ever translates to.

Still, it could have been worse. If I’d set off on my own, I’d still be out there, somewhere, doing doughnuts on the median of I-90 or wondering why the vast potato plains of Idaho look nothing like Concord, MA, where I was supposed to be heading. So the GPS “helped”, I suppose. In a manner of speaking.

I still want that wowwypop. This little sailor’s been at sea too long.

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