Answering A New-Age Question

While it certainly does not rank up there with age-old questions the Greek philosophers wrestled with, there comes a time when each of us must answer the question: how far do we trust our G.P.S.?

The Global Positioning System.

I was driving to Nashville on Thursday, but my head was still totally immersed in the Arts & Crafts Conference. I had my checklist: clothes, laptop, props, supplies, briefcase, rental car, schedule, but I was not as focused as I typically would have been. Rather than taking the time to print out my itinerary on Map Quest as a backup, I simply punched the address of the Marriott Hotel into my Garmin, pressed “Go!” and headed west, across the French Broad River, up the Appalachian Mountains and down into the plains of Tennessee.

The front seat of my rental car looked like a mini-office: briefcase open, notebook and pen within reach for notes, bite-size Snickers bars and a Dr. Pepper to keep me awake, and my iPhone ready. I was still buzzing with ideas for next year’s Arts & Crafts Conference as I zipped down the road, cruising past truckers and tourists headed to Dollyworld.

I have been to Nashville more times than I can recall, so I was a bit puzzled when my G.P.S. instructed me to exit about five miles before I expected. I thought my hotel was downtown, but shrugged and followed her instructions, figuring she must be taking me on a loop north of the city that would save me time and avoid any lingering rush hour congestion.

But as the city lights began to dim in the distance, I began to wonder just where she was taking me. But like any well-trained gerbil in a wheel, I kept going and going and going, joking to myself that I would soon be seeing signs for the Welcome Center — for Kentucky.

And so I blindly followed her instructions, pushing my gnawing doubts into the backseat, even as the streets grew narrow and the glowing street lights further apart. By the time she announced that we had reached my destination — which turned out to be a boarded-up crack house — I looked every bit like an out of town businessman looking to score some drugs.

I drove toward the only glowing light I could see, which turned out to be a combination laundromat and liquor store where the cast of the Night of the Living Dead hung out. My interior dome light drew them to me like moths to a burning flame. I was so disoriented that I had no idea even which direction downtown Nashville was. Being the friendly Midwestern guy that I am, I decided to get out of my car and ask for directions.

Bad idea.

The first guy nearly drove me down as he swerved to get away from me. The second must have thought the car key I held was a knife, but he nervously cracked his window a half-inch and pointed south before speeding off. I turned around to find a drunk leaning against my car and a couple of teenagers eyeing my open briefcase on the front seat.

But I puffed myself up like a farmyard rooster, letting them see the gleaming car key in my hand as I got in and pulled away.

It took another twenty minutes of driving, but the beckoning lights of the downtown towers soon came into sight, guiding me and my now silent navigator toward our destination, following not an invisible satellite signal, but the glow of civilization.

Tomorrow I’ll have to decide just how far I’ll let her take me ….

Until next Monday,

Have a great week!