Global positioning satellite (GPS) technology has wormed its way into our daily lives in ways that only science fiction writers could imagine just a few short years ago. We first made friends with those little hand-held receivers that hunters, hikers and holiday travelers used to navigate. We learned to find our way back to the truck while hunting and then found our way over the hills and through the woods to grandma’s house. Not only that but we learned how to get to our favorite restaurants, the hotel and we figured out where to gas up.
The drawback was you had to read that little book that came with the device. I have had more than one person tell me, “I’ve got a GPS, but I have no idea how to use the thing!” True, unless you spend an evening reading the book and playing with “the thing”, you probably expected it to just operate itself. That’s where we can get into serious trouble. There is no shortage of internet stories about people who misused either their GPS receiver or their common sense. One fellow planned a trip from New York to Pennsylvania. The GPS directed him to drive north, which he obediently did and wound up in Canada, rather than Pennsylvania. The lesson here is don’t let your common sense take a vacation when using a GPS.
Two weeks my wife and I flew to the east coast for business. Because we felt taking our grandkids along would be beneficial to their overall education, we included them. Most of us carry an iPhone. Including the grandkids. Who knew Siri would know the way from Washington, D.C. to Annapolis, Maryland? We rented a car and the agent asked if we needed a GPS. I almost said “yes” when my grandson said, “No thanks, we got this.” Without flaw, Siri led us from Reagan National Airport to Annapolis, Maryland and got us exactly where we wanted to go. If you have no idea who Siri is, ask your kids or grandkids. After an amazing lunch at Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs in Annapolis, she guided us through the maze of interchanges, off ramps and exits right back to Reagan National. All you have to do is speak into your iPhone, “Hey Siri.” She confidently, calmly,and without raising her voice I might add, directs you to take the left at the proper exit and to “proceed for eighteen miles.” Easy as pie. No booklet required.
There is however, an app for the older style GPS that gets you back to your hunting rig. It takes a bit of practice, and it’s all in one handy little package that we all carry nowadays. The cell phone.
Combat units use GPS technology to track their soldiers on the battlefield. Postal managers follow the progress of mail carriers, as well as UPS managers, trucking fleet dispatchers, armored truck companies and almost every company whose employees are on the move. GPS technology is not only here to stay, but is growing every day.
As always, send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.