Off the Map

By on March 6, 2008

“What did she say?” my friend Muffin* asked me in a slightly panicked voice. (*Name changed to protect the newly licensed.)
“She said, ‘You have arrived at your destination,’ ” I hesitantly repeated.

We slowly looked around. I looked out my window. Muffin looked out hers. This was not our destination. Not even close. By car, the trip from our apartment complex to our downtown appointment should have taken about 20 minutes. A very easy 20 minutes.

“How long have we been driving?” I asked my friend.
“Ummm…about two hours,” she whispered back.
“You know,” I said as I checked my purse for my passport. “I can’t even see Tokyo Tower. Isn’t it, you know, 300 meters tall?”
Were we still in the same country?

Muffin and I looked sternly at the car’s GPS Navigation System.
“C’mon, Beverly,” I pleaded. “Don’t give up on us.” (About 45 minutes ago, we decided that our driving luck may change if we “named” the navigation system. We chose “Beverly.” Beverlies are always kind, patient, reliable and extremely helpful.)

“C’mon, Bev,” I said. “Be kind, patient, reliable and extremely helpful! We know we didn’t follow your directions exactly. We know we made you recalculate the route several times. We were wrong to doubt you. We know that now. Please, Bev, please, show us the way. Any way!”

“What do you say, Bev?” my friend leaned into the screen as both of us crossed our fingers. We were hoping the English message would read “recalculating route” once more.
“You have arrived at your destination,” Beverly repeated.
“Wow, Beverly,” I said. “For having such a sexy, sweet voice, you’ve got a stone-cold heart.”

Due to this “Tokyo Moment” that lasted all afternoon, I now have suggestions for a new kind of navigation system—one that’s specifically designed for those new to Tokyo, new to driving or, well, just knuckleheads.

1. As soon as the foot hits the pedal and the seat adjusted, the system should identify its driver. “Oh, hello, Muffin. I knew it was you. Giving driving another go, are we? My calculation determines 87% chance of getting lost. Please take the next right. First stop is the gas station. This could be a very long day.”

2. If the system has had to recalculate the route 10 times, it will automatically acknowledge the real-time tension in the car. “System senses high frustration level. Meeting route aborted. Play date route aborted. Coffee shop route initiated. Turn left in 100 meters. Your favorite latte has already been called in.”

3. If the GPS has had to recalculate the route over 15 times, it will immediately kick in to crisis mode. “Take your hands off the wheel. Emergency measures initiated. Auto pilot on. Soothing music will commence immediately. Seats will now begin massaging neck and back quadrants to alleviate tension. New destination—nearest spa. Team has been notified and at the ready. Babysitter called. Dinner reservations made. Relaxing night out recommended. But, please, for goodness sake, listen to Beverly and take the train!”

About Karen Pond

Karen Pond is mother to 3 boys and author of Getting Genki In Japan: The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Family in Tokyo