Modern day treasure map


Have you ever programmed your GPS for an adventure?

Technology these days is unreal.

I remember, not too long ago, getting directions to a variety of places.

If you were familiar with the route or the area, turns might be marked by big red barns and the fields designated by specific surnames and other amazing landmarks. For instance…

Head out of the lot here and take the left after the old Caldor parking lot. Follow that for a bit until you’re passing Thompson field. At the end of the field turn left and go straight until you see McNichol’s barn. Bear to the right at the fork after the barn and go on until you cross the old bridge…

And, of course, you would arrive at the pool party your co-worker was hosting without a problem. No street names offered. No mileage specifics measured. Chances are good that as the person was rattling off the details you were visualizing every marker and turn until you reached the final step or two, at which point you needed to pay attention so you would know the number on the mailbox and the color of the house.

Over time, as you expanded your world to include friends in new states and jobs in different cities, the directions were adjusted a bit. But… no less thrilling. They would involve turns at the third stoplight. (Not third light. Not third intersection. Third stoplight.) They would involve driving for 1.2 miles before the turn. They would involve highway exits… which was amazingly fun when you transitioned between states that numbered exits differently (say from one that used a basic numerical progression to one using highway mile marker distances as designations).

But of all the twists for directions provided by growing up… ranging from the two or three streets that make up your neighborhood to finding your grandparents to learning about cities and states and friends and employment and more… the really amazing leap has been the GPS.

I don’t believe I ever learned the actual directions from our driveway to Justin’s college campus. I should have been paying attention to them. I should have planned for that guy Murphy to visit and cause some sort of disruption. But I never did write anything down. I just plugged in the address (or brought up the entry as a favorite) and off we went.

And the more familiar you get, the more you can plug in. Your house to a store you add to your plans since you’re headed out, then over to the restaurant for dinner, and on to the concert venue. Boom… boom… boom… step by step into the GPS. These days, the right unit or app will even help you adjust for traffic, construction, other obstacles and assorted delays.

But there are limitations to any GPS if you aren’t smart enough to recognize the blinders.

About ten years ago, I was driving Terry, Ellen, Richard, Mike and Louis in northern California. We were headed from the San Francisco area down toward Monterrey. During the drive, I noticed a sign on the side of the road for a natural bridge. The GPS didn’t warn me. Spotting the sign did. It was awesome

Roughly eight years ago, Terry, Ellen and Richard were passengers on a journey that involved moving from Las Vegas out to an overnight visit to the Grand Canyon. After stopping at the Hoover Dam, a few minutes looking over a map, we adjust the supposed fastest route to a brilliant detour onto a stretch of the legendary Route 66. Awesome.

There is a saying that many of us have heard, where the mythical destination is marked by an X. That’s where the treasure resides. I had started this essay out with a few thoughts in mind, most of them designed to make some sort of connection with “arrive at your destination”, less with “recalculating”, and a bit about the end point of a treasure map.

Along the way though, I began to sense I was missing something. A “happy accident” button.

There are apps out there that are designed to help you find places you normally would never find. But there’s always an aspect that an app misses. Usually it’s something obvious, such as someone without a smartphone not using apps, and as such not benefitting from them.

For a clearer concept, you can’t provide an e-mail address if you don’t have an e-mail address. And yet, the world had moved along to the point where it assumes everyone has an e-mail address.

If you live in New York City… Chicago… or insert any major city here… the reality is simple. A two or three-mile radius around your location is significantly different than a similar radius would look for someone in Peach Springs, Arizona.

I think I’d like to be able to set my GPS up for a journey, and every so often hit that “happy accident” button. Something designed to offer up an option or two for sightseeing, national monuments, food and shopping beyond the general and popular destinations.

Unfortunately, I see problems. I’m not going to get a “happy accident” button. As soon as anyone could streamline the process… and I do mean streamline, since many of you are already prepping messages to tell me I could navigate around GPS options on any unit to find national parks, community attractions, and more… the real problem is that sponsorship and ad revenue would kick in and take on a significant (and unwelcome) presence.

You’re hoping to get a referral to the best local Navajo Tacos… served up on fresh Fry Bread… but the old GPS company took some money for preferred placements in the happy accident rankings, and suddenly a national chain tops the listing.

In the end, I’m led back to something I learned years ago, when working on an ambulance. The quote was easy: “It’s a poor craftsman that blames his equipment.” It’s up to us to know the blessings of our tools, the methods for using them, and the limitations they have.

The GPS will lead me to the X on the map. It can offer me some options along the way. I can ultimately arrive at the treasure. But it’s up to me to look around and notice the scenery that’s part of the journey.


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