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).**

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