Stockholm Syndrome & Global Positioning Systems


My son bugged unremittingly until I replaced my old cell phone with one that offered GPS services.  He was sure that happenstance was  the only reason I ever arrived anywhere.

Before my next road trip, the phone was programmed with my location and destination and lay cushioned on the passenger seat like an electronic umbilicus.  Next to it were my daughter’s handwritten directions which I would hide  before pulling into my son’s driveway.  He doesn’t understand the comfort of a paper I can  read myself or shake under his nose the day the signals die.  (See:  American Pie)

I’m the Mom because I’ve been jolted out of smugness more than he has.  He’s wise in many ways but sometimes his imagination fails for lack of experience.  Computers have always been part of his life. He can’t envision a day, for instance,  when traffic jams disrupt orbiting signals.  (NY Times, Colliding Satellites). To tell the truth, neither can I; but I’ve been jolted enough to know that denying the possibility of something  is generally  shortsighted:  “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, [t]han are dreamt of in your philosophy.” *

As I turned left toward the freeway,  the GPS voice was irritatingly indifferent to outcomes – possessed of cadences that would sail through a nuclear strike  so long as batteries and towers escaped the melting.

During the first half hour of the trip, I was pleased to ignore her– to wrest control.  When I passed the second turn in favor of the third, she had no quippy comeback.  The car was silent except for the burring of my own anticipation.  How much stress was built into the system?

Like a Terminator, relentless in its dedication to mission,  the GPS re-configured herself;  aligned herself to new data and surroundings. “Recalculating route,” she said.

I glanced in the rearview mirror and made a Frodo-vow to leave her in my pocket except under the direst of circumstances.

After three hours into a two hour trip, the four lane highway had tapered to a stream trickling between vacant motels and closed gas stations.  I hadn’t seen  a familiar landmark for miles and the winter sun was dimming.  At a crossroads in a small town,  I turned the phone back on, finger poised  to enter my new orientation.  Without missing a beat,  her uninflected tones assured me she was  again, “Recalculating the route.”

In the silence, I felt her omnipresence. She would always know where I was.  I would never be lost again.  “[She]wouldn’t stop, [she] would never leave [me]. [She]…was the only thing that measured up. In an insane world, [she] was the sanest choice.”  (Terminator 2).**

Notes and Citations

Phases of Stockholm Syndrome. (Police Chief Magazine) Stockholm Syndrome relies on a person being unaware of their shift in perspective – from a view of the captor as enemy to the captor as rescuer. When we are lost,  we turn to whomever or whatever convinces us of their  power to rescue us.

**If you haven’t read Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom, you might give it a try.  You can browse it online and then order it through a local bookstore.  (My personal favorite is Hamish & Henry Booksellers in Livingston Manor, NY. but the link to their new website isn’t working. In the meantime,  their phone number is: 845-439-8029.) If you have a different favorite bookstore, please post in the “comments” section.

* I think the hardest and  best thing about parenting is watching our children lose their blind faith in authority and gain faith in themselves.  It’s a brilliant and terrible thing.

4 thoughts on “Stockholm Syndrome & Global Positioning Systems

  1. Anna Wrobel

    Have you heard the one about the German motorist so addicted to his GPS that when it told him to “turn left” at the very next turn-off, he did and found himself stuck in the middle of a railroad track with a train coming on. He luckily escaped. His car was smashed. The problem is not the tool. The problem is when we ourselves become mere gears in the machine. I LOVE maps. Always will. I learned to sew by hand before learning to use a sewing machine. The problem for our children is that they only know how to use the machine and would be lost with a needle and thread.

  2. lizbucar Post author

    So glad you wrote! The other thing we sometimes miss is that when I knit, I hear Grandma’s needles clicking. It’s as if we’re closing the gap together. Liz

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