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Country road out the front window of a car.
WHICH WAY? Suppose you’re on this road and GPS isn’t working. Unless you asked for actual directions, how would you know which way to go at the stop sign?

Just give me real directions and my atlas

Here’s an ominous message for generations who don’t know how to even use directory assistance.

This piece is for those who get frustrated when someone needs directions, you give them an address, and they insist on old-fashioned directions. The trend is clearly just providing an address and assuming the person will use MapQuest or GPS on their phone to find it.

I’m bucking the trend, and I will be one of the people who frustrates you by asking for “real” directions. I’m not anti-technology — just anti-getting lost.

Here’s the classic example: I was supposed to meet someone for an interview at Jellystone Park near Lake Monroe. I asked the person for directions. They emailed me the address instead. I knew better, but figured I could surely use electronic technology to find the place — everyone else uses it.

So I waited until the morning I was ready to go and sat down at the computer to pull up MapQuest and type in the address. I clicked on my email and instantly discovered that the internet was down. I had no service, period! And I was supposed to leave in 10 minutes. Now what?

Then I remembered that you can get directions off the GPS you put on your windshield in the car. Naturally, I’ve never really figured out how to do that and drive at the same time.
But my wife has. So I raced in and asked her to help me get directions fast.

Downhill from there
My wife frowned. “Don’t you remember we couldn’t get it to work correctly on our last trip?” she said. Obviously, I didn’t remember. But it came back all too fast. Another time technology failed me.

“When you get close, call the person on your cell and have them direct you,” she suggested.

Having no better idea, I rushed out the door and headed south. I had a vague idea of where Lake Monroe was, and that’s it. How vague? When I got to Bloomington on Indiana 37, I turned off the first time I saw a sign saying “Lake Monroe.” The road was headed into campus, so I stopped to ask directions. The young gas station clerk was honest. “I have no clue,” he said.

I called the person I was meeting up with. No answer. Great! Later, I learned cell service is real sketchy there. The call never went through.

Finally, I decided to rely on technology that most people no longer know anything about: directory assistance (411). I got a number from an automated voice and soon was talking to someone at Jellystone Park — another honest teenager with no clue. Fortunately, her supervisor had internet access and pulled up directions and read them to me.

I was only 12 miles and 20 minutes off! I finally made it, just a few minutes late.

What’s the point? Technology isn’t foolproof. The past may be the past, but everything in the past wasn’t bad and isn’t obsolete. There may come a time when you still need the technology of days gone by to help you when modern technology fails.

After this experience, I asked several people under the age of 30 how many of them had ever heard of directory assistance. Only one had, and he hadn’t used it! How will the next generation get back on course when technology fails them? It’s a question worth pondering.

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