Things that I think and do
Among the usual film releases each year – comic book adaptations, charming rom-coms and whatever moral fairytale Pixar have decided to impose upon us – there are usually films with plots that involve robots and their thrilling ability to take over the humans only to reveal a fatal weakness that only the hero can exploit to SAVE THE WORLD.
I must confess I’m not a big watcher of films of this ilk. Despite this I’ve developed a storyline for the most realistic one yet. It’s an all-action drama in which satnavs take control of the world by sending drivers the wrong way and into mortal peril and certain death.
The thing about this plot is that it might already be happening in real life.
I drove home from Leeds a couple of weeks ago and because my cat could probably drive for three hours down the M1 with navigation, I gave the satnav a rest so it could prepare for the stage involving my drive out of London and back to Kent.
After dropping off my chum in Ealing I dusted off the satnav, which is quite probably the most advanced bit of machinery in my car anyway, set course for home and pootled off. (I should point out at this stage I had a rough idea of where I was going and the satnav was more back-up equipment than anything else. Everyone knows that A40, M4, M25 and M20 is the way back to Kent. Who wouldn’t?)
Thus began the most frustrating trip since Abraham found out his jaunt up the mountain to sacrifice his son was a waste of time.
The satnav started off well by directing me out of London towards the M4. It then ruined any credibility it had by demanding that I go back into London on said motorway and drive through Chiswick, Hammersmith and the Embankment to get to God only knows where in south east London.
The last thing I want to do in my car – and that list is quite long – is drive through London. Call me a wimp if you like, I don’t care; it’s intimidating. The roads have more than two lanes for God’s sake! Just the week before I’d driven from Hackney to Ealing and had emerged from the driver’s seat a sweaty, shaking mass of nerves and bloodshot eyes. And that’s a 20-minute drive.
So obviously I ignored the persistent woman who was once more shouting at me and bumbled along my own way. But the satnav didn’t give up. For about forty minutes until I got near Sevenoaks every junction was apparently a chance to get back onto the South Circular and do some town driving.
Maybe it was really telling me the shortest route. But satnavs should be programmed to realise that driving through London is always an absolute last resort – unless in the ‘Settings’ screen you select the “I enjoy driving with nutters and sitting in traffic” option.
My journey, in which the hero struggles against robotic power and finally defeats it, could have been filmed and released commercially –– with some heavy edits of the choicier swearing.
Sadly though there are plenty of drivers who don’t win the battle with the machine. Less so today, I admit, but I often used to hear of poor innocent civilians whose satnavs had directed them into a river or parked them over the edge of a cliff.
Perhaps it’s all part of natural selection. Those who are incapable of spotting that the next right will take them rather closer to the bottom of a lake than is ideal, and those who don’t know the proper way to Kent from west London, have been eliminated from the gene pool. Sad, yes. But possible.
Satnavs can be good for inner-city driving (except London, where only taxis, buses and actual Londoners should be allowed to drive) but frankly that’s pretty much it. Long-distance driving doesn’t need them at all, as motorways are remarkably simple. The main benefit I can see to a satnav is that it isn’t made of paper and therefore you don’t have to execute some precarious balancing act to hold it up while driving. At least the machine is attached to the windscreen – although you have not experienced true fury until your satnav has suddenly and noisily fallen into the footwell while you’re whooshing along the motorway.
One of my major driving achievements – we all have them – is doing a 10-hour trip to Périgord in France with only a sheet of handwritten directions and a four-year old road map.
Aside from the fact that the satnav would have bored me to tears all the way, I simply didn’t need one. The roads were all fairly simple and the jolly considerate French had even provided routes circumventing the major cities.
If my satnav did fun accents or celebrity voices, I’d be tempted to use it more often. Alan Bennett or Sean Connery telling me which exit to take would get me using it for even the smallest journey.
As it is, mine is old and rather boring. And, it seems, vindictive. If you’re ever expecting a visit from me and I don’t turn up, lock your doors and hide in the cellar. It will mean that the robot in my car has finally succeeded in getting me to drive into a solid wall where a road used to be. Or worse, Brixton.