Thursday, March 4, 2010

Where are we going?

Technology sure makes life easy, but I think it's making me soft.

We arrived in Ontario, California, last night with one major item missing -- our GPS! I left it in the glove box of the van, which is parked at the airport in Kansas City. We're going to be here 12 days, and I was depending on that box to get us around. I feel so vulnerable.

It's not like I'm clueless to navigating. I love maps, and I generally have a great sense of direction. So, last night why did I feel like a lost kid searching for his mother at the mall? Before we hit the streets, we fumbled around with a rental car map, our cell phones, and a phone book (what's that?) until a friendly local dude offered assistance.

I could hear in my mind the sound of my deceased father smacking his forehead and shaking his head in disbelief. He's the one who taught me a love for orienteering. One of the few tangible objects that I inherited from my father was a yellowed plastic box full of maps. There are road maps and tourist maps and mostly old maps pulled from decades-old issues of National Geographic.

One of the many skills my father instilled in me -- in conjunction with that box of maps -- is a knack for getting from point A to point B. As we prepared for the dozens of road-trips we took as a family, he would spend hours planning, plotting, and routing. He loved figuring distances, estimating times of arrival, and calculating miles per gallon. And I loved looking over his shoulder at the scribbles on his maps.

As a young adult I experienced the satisfying rush of hitting the ground in an unknown territory, getting a lay of the land, grabbing a map, establishing my bearings, and sniffing out directions. And as much as I appreciate the convenience of a GPS, my dependence on it has shriveled my nurtured abilities and left me a puny helpless tourist.

So, now we are left armed with the quaint and antiquated tools of a laptop, Google maps, and a Blackberry. How will we survive? Stay tuned...

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