I knew we were in trouble when she said, “In one quarter mile stay straight on Route 841”; but then immediately changed her mind and said, “Take the ramp on the right to I-65”.
“She” is that mellow voiced lady who lives inside my smartphone. Her initials are GPS, which stands for Global Positioning Satellite. When I hooked up with her several years ago I thought Global Positioning Satellite was too formal so I shortened her name to Gypsy. This is a fitting name because Gypsy seems to have been on every highway, street, and alleyway in the entire United States (if not the world), and on a moments notice can give me instructions to go anywhere I want to go.
The truth is I’ve fallen in love with Gypsy. Only platonically, of course, but I confess there is a warm emotional connection on my part, if not on hers. She has been my constant companion for the past five years.
Not long after Gypsy came into my life Yvonne noticed I was spending a lot of time holding her and prompting her to talk to me. “I think you love that thing more than you love me,” she said.
“Gypsy is not a thing,” I countered. “She’s my friend.”
Yvonne just frowned and rhetorically replied, “So why did you select that bedroom voice for her?” I didn’t answer, but after that I did try to be more discrete about spending time with Gypsy when Yvonne was present.
My involvement with Gypsy resurfaced last week when she seemed uncertain about those directions to I-65 south of Louisville. Yvonne picked up on Gypsy’s apparent confusion right away.
“Did you hear that? She gave you the wrong directions,” Yvonne said. (Of course Yvonne was referring to Gypsy, but she never uses her name.)
I quickly came to Gypsy’s defense. “I don’t think so. You have to admit this is a confusing interchange.”
Yvonne wasn’t admitting anything. “I can’t believe your defending that thing.” Then she went on with a tone of sarcasm. “You know she sees and knows everything so she probably knows you have marked our entire route in the atlas with a yellow highlighter, and she’s is wondering why you are asking her for directions if you already know where you are going.”
I wished Yvonne hadn’t said those words out loud but she was right. For the past few weeks I had been compulsively obsessing about every detail of our 30 day western road trip and had mapped and highlighted our entire route covering 10 states (and seven national parks) before we would make a U-turn in Salt Lake City to head back home.
Rather than respond to Yvonne’s comments I shrugged the incident off, figuring there had to be a reasonable explanation for Gypsy to be confused about our directions.
But the next day it happened again. We were making our way south from Little Rock to Hot Springs, Arkansas when out of nowhere Gypsy announced, “Continue north on Route 70 for eight miles.”
Yvonne looked at me and started to laugh. “Did you hear that? I think you should just turn her off before she gets us lost.” As Yvonne finished speaking she reached in the back seat for the atlas to double check our directions. I didn’t turn Gypsy off and she gave us perfect directions through northwestern Arkansas and onto I-40 in Oklahoma. But all the while Yvonne was tracking my yellow highlighted route in the atlas to be sure Gypsy didn’t get us lost.
Everything went well the next day as we passed through Oklahoma, across the panhandle of Texas, and into New Mexico where we turned north at Santa Rosa toward the historic city of Taos.
We were driving in an area that was so barren even sagebrush wouldn’t grow. There were no houses but occasionally we passed a dirt road to the left or right that seemed to go nowhere. Twice as we approached these turnoffs Gypsy announced, “In one quarter mile turn left.” Yvonne no longer made remarks about Gypsy’s confusion. I think she wanted to spare the hurt I was feeling as I realized something was seriously wrong with Gypsy. Without saying a word, I reached down and touched Gypsy’s off button, pressing it firmly for a long moment until in her soft voice she said, “GPS disconnected.”
Over the next two days, without Gypsy’s help, we made our way to Taos and on to my Stepmom’s home in Colorado Springs. During our stay with her our itinerary included a trip to Pikes Peak, which, at an elevation of 14,118 feet, majestically looks over Colorado Springs. As many readers may already know, the steep 19-mile Pikes Peak Highway, with no guardrails and its numerous hairpin curves, annually hosts the International Hill Climb, also known as the Race to the Clouds.
As we headed in the direction of Pikes Peak last Sunday morning I realized I had left the atlas at my Stepmom’s house. Rather than go back I reluctantly turned Gypsy on. I have to admit it was nice to hear her voice, and to my delight she gave us perfect directions to the entrance to Pikes Peak Highway. Of course there is only one way up and back down, but I left Gypsy on anyway, not expecting any comment except as we approached the summit to hear her say, “In a quarter mile you will reach your destination.”
We slowly wound our way up the mountain with my acrophobia escalating exponentially each time we rounded another hairpin turn and came to another narrow stretch of road with only a two-foot gravel berm separating us from an eternal race to the clouds.
After nearly an hour of driving we passed mile marker 17. We were well above the tree line and to avoid each new precipice to the right I hugged the middle of the road crowding the cars starting their decent down the mountain. I had just rounded the last hairpin turn when Gypsy abruptly said, “Make a right turn now.” I was so startled by her sudden command that I almost turned right – straight off the cliff. Yvonne started to grab the steering wheel but I held it firmly and stayed on the road.
In another minute we were at the top. My legs were wobbly as Yvonne and I made our way to the edge of the railed overlook. Being a smartphone, Gypsy also takes pictures so I held her high over the rail to capture the amazing view from the pinnacle of Pikes Peak.
Well, I don’t know if it was because my hands were still shaking from the drive up the mountain or if Gypsy simply realized it was time for her to go, but at that moment she slipped from my hands and vanished from sight below the rail. My heart leaped into my throat as I turned at looked at Yvonne with an expression of despair. “It’s okay honey,” she said. “It was time for Gypsy to go.” It was the first time Yvonne had ever spoken Gypsy’s name, and the kindness in her voice made me love her all the more.
Back down the mountain we stopped and purchased a replacement smartphone that has all of Gypsy’s capabilities and more, but I’ll always remember that moment when I lost my sweet Gypsy on top of old Pike.
George Brown is a freelance writer. He and his wife Yvonne live in Jackson Township.