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real people are better than siriI know only one way to drive to NYC — I-91 to Exit 17 in Connecticut to Route 15. I stay on Route 15 for about two hours until I get to Manhattan and then I take a left.  If that route’s not available, I’m in trouble. When driving to NYC last week, traffic stopped at Exit 23, with a blinking highway sign saying Exits 17 and 18 were closed. Clearly, I had a problem, not the least of which was an important meeting at 2 p.m. that I was now in danger of missing.

Technical Difficulties

Then I remembered my new iPhone has a navigation function, which of course I have no idea how to use. I called my husband for help and he began trying his best to teach me. Eric’s quite adept at all things technical, while I struggle, which remains somewhat of a mystery to his science mind. Needless to say, driving down I-91 in three lanes of slow moving traffic is not the ideal learning environment for me. Eric kept saying, “Tricia, you need to use the tools you have at hand.” This was not helpful.

No help at all if you don’t know how to use it

Frustrated, I told him I’d figure this out somehow and let him get back to work. At this point, I’m approaching exit 20. I’m trying in vain to locate a course other than I-91 to Route 15 on the phone’s map, which appears to be showing me Massachusetts, which I’ve already driven through. So I turn to the tools I have at hand, the ones I know how to use — Southern charm and prayer.  I say, “Okay, God, if you want me to make this meeting, I could use your help right about now.” Then I roll down my window and nicely ask the man in the car next to me, “Sir, do you know if I can get to Route 15 from Exit 20?” and he says, “I’ve just put it in my GPS. Follow me.”

It Just Gets Better

I follow my new interstate friend for several miles and as a precaution I call up Eric again and say, “I just met a very nice man on the interstate and I am following him to Route 15. In the off chance I have misread the situation and he bludgeons me to death, here is his license plate number.” Mildly alarmed, Eric writes down the information.

After some distance, we pull into an empty restaurant parking lot. My interstate friend says, “I’m actually looking for Route 5 North and my GPS is taking me back to I-91 where I don’t want to go, but I think Route 15 is just up this road.” We then see a police officer parked in his squad car, and I ask him, “Excuse me officer, do you know where Route 15 is?” He says, “Sure, it’s just a half mile up the road. Follow me. I’ll escort you.”

Real People are Better Than Siri

I call up Eric and tell him he doesn’t have to worry about me being bludgeoned and that I’m now receiving a police escort to Route 15. I can hear him shaking his head.

The view from my parking space

About two minutes later, Route 15 to NYC appears magically in front of me. And once I get to NYC, a treasured parking space awaits me directly in front of where I am staying. The express subway to 14th Street runs smoothly and I walk into my meeting right on time.

Now, I’m not saying the iPhone’s navigation function isn’t a valuable tool — once I figure out how to use the darn thing, I know it’ll come in handy. But the thing is, if I’d used my iPhone, I would have missed seeing how kind people can be, missed experiencing the great human connection, how we all want to help one another, and I wouldn’t have had such a great story to tell. As for me, I’ll take a good story over technology any day of the week.

See more from Tricia Rose Burt.

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