Show me the way, GPS


As I have said many times, our house was a gadget house. With my dad tinkering around for The Phone Company, our family ran across some of the neatest gadgets around.

My biggest regret is my father didn’t live long enough to see the development of the “smart” phone. I call them “smart” because even after all this time, they still haven’t proven themselves to be as smart as they should be.

Last week was a prime example for me. My oldest son, Steven, is an attorney working for a law firm in Nashville. I got a call from him one afternoon, which is highly irregular. I kept trying to hear him say something, but he couldn’t hear me. So, I called him back expecting some problem, catastrophe, miracle or good news. Instead, he said he must have “butt-dialed” me. 

For the uninitiated, “butt-dialing” occurs when your smart phone takes some action by the caller – like sitting on top of it – as your desire to call a number on your speed dial list. It ain’t so. The next day while I was trying to locate the home of a local man who had written his second book for a story assignment, I ran into the second misgiving of today’s “smart” phone – GPS, which must stand for “Grievously Poor Selection.” OK, it’s really the Global Positioning System, which the U.S. Air Force develops and maintains two of the system’s three segments. It runs the space and control segments, while the user segment is left to the companies on the ground to receive the signals and translate them. What the user segment has to have is the correct address to find directions to the right spot, I found out recently. I planned to talk to a man near Sumrall about a book, so I typed his address in my Waze app: “Windham Circle.” It couldn’t find it. It only located “Windham Drive.” So, I decided my smart phone was smarter than me, so I took its word for it.

Wrong. After driving north of Sanford on Hwy. 49, I tried again, using Google Maps for the address. No Windham Circle again, but there was a Windham Drive even farther north. I knew that couldn’t be right.

I decided I would call and get a better idea where to go. So, as I was turning around and trying to outrun the Hwy. 49 traffic back toward Hattiesburg, my car sputtered and wouldn’t accelerate past 40 mph. I ducked into the first piece of gravel I could find.After jiggling a cable and pressing the accelerator, I determined it was broke beyond my expertise. I called the office and begged reporter Haskel Burns for a jumpstart and a ride back to the office. He agreed and set off after I sent him my GPS location.

It turned out the location I sent apparently was a place in Texas, so I sent another one. I decided I had better tell the guys inside Scott’s Hydraulic Services that I was blocking their driveway and had someone on the way to jump off my car. The guys at the hydraulic services – being the nice guys that they are (Thanks, Brandon and Joe) – offered to help and tried valiantly to jumpstart my car. It wouldn’t crank. So, I called my favorite mechanic in Sumrall, who left with the tow truck in search of a white car off Hwy. 49 near Sanford. 

Meanwhile, Haskel called back and said the other directions weren’t right, so I sent a third set. Those apparently were correct. Before Haskel could pick me up, the tow truck came and left. While I was waiting for both of them, my appointment for the interview called me. He said he hit the wrong button.Too bad the phone wasn’t smart enough to figure out which number he wanted to call. I guess that will come in the upgrade.

 Buster Wolfe is a veteran Mississippi newspaperman. Although he doesn’t get lost very often, when he does – he does it very, very well.