GPS Helps Navigate More Than the Road

As part of my becoming chief editor of CSE, my wife, Amanda, and I agreed to relocate from Portland, Ore., to the Chicago area. Selling a house, finding a new place and preparing for an interstate move had our plate so full we couldn't spend a lot of time planning the long and logistically complex drive (pet-friendly hotels are few and far between these days).


As part of my becoming chief editor of CSE , my wife, Amanda, and I agreed to relocate from Portland, Ore., to the Chicago area. Selling a house, finding a new place and preparing for an interstate move had our plate so full we couldn't spend a lot of time planning the long and logistically complex drive (pet-friendly hotels are few and far between these days). So, I bought a GPS. And, being a techno geek, I spent as much time researching GPS devices as we spent on planning the trip (shhhh). In the end, considering price vs. features, I bought a good one, justifying that it would help us navigate the intense traffic of Chicago.

I was able to learn the most important features quickly enough, and before we left, I punched in all of the addresses where we would be staying. As a backup, I also searched MapQuest for the driving directions and printed them out for Amanda. And as an extra backup, we threw the road atlas into her car for good measure. Three generations of technology should get us there without too many hassles…

Minutes after the moving truck left, so did we. Everything worked perfectly until we departed early one morning from our hotel in Layton, Utah. The highway was only a short drive, but the GPS directed us to city streets—in the opposite direction. I browsed the GPS unit to ensure that we were on the right track, and didn't worry too much. In my research I had read that it's not uncommon to get directions that you won't expect, which are not only right but time-savers, too. Amanda, however, hadn't done that research.

My cell phone rang. I explained to her that it was fine. She hung up. A few minutes later, she called again and was adamant about stopping to look at a map. We were only a few miles from the highway then, and I had to break hard to pull into the only visible place left to stop before getting to the highway.

A discussion ensued, and I realized that we were in one of those situations where so many people find themselves today when it comes to technology, and that includes discussions about building automation systems and controls, Internet-based project management, electronic-document-management systems and telecommunications technologies.

On the one hand, we have people who are adept at using digital technologies and capable of learning quickly. And on the other hand, we have those who, no matter how intelligent and experienced, are decidedly not adept at digital technologies, being forced to trust or at least follow the people who are. Even the perception of failure is different: with even one instance of a failure, some are willing to unplug from the whole thing forever, while others accept it as a temporary setback and keep moving ahead.

We worked through the situation, and I gained a fresh appreciation of the chasms that exist not only between technologies but between the people who use them. In answer to the question, “Can't we all get along?” the answer is yes.

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