Orange County, California. I was running late for my next appointment. Preparing to turn left into an on-ramp for the 405 Freeway heading north and west, toward Long Beach, I looked down at the north-bound Freeway. Six lanes. Crawling. My phone navigator indicated that driving time on the 405 to my destination would be about 25 minutes.
I recalled a friend saying, “We don’t talk about distances in LA, we talk about traffic time.” I thought, “No way am I making that drive in 25 minutes.”
Although I don’t live in the LA area, I guessed (incorrectly, it turns out) that that Orange County streets are laid out uniformly in a North-South grid and that I would be more likely to reach my destination on time if I continued driving east until I hit a main drag heading north, turned left, and drove north. I shut off my phone and drove on.
After a couple of miles, I had second thoughts, so I pulled out my other phone (yes, I take two, so they can argue with each other) and lit up the navigation software for some guidance on the alternative route.
“Calculating route.” The phone wanted to put me back on the 405. I kept driving.
“Recalculating route.” The phone was still hot for the 405. I drove a couple of more miles until I hit what looked like a main street headed north.
“Recalculating route.” The phone had given up on the 405 and was now suggesting that I “continue on.” That didn’t make any sense to me, so I turned left to head (what I thought was) north and stifled the phone.
After driving several miles bumper to bumper, I second guessed again and fired up the phone.
“Turn right,” recommended the phone, suggesting I head due east again.
“That’s stupid,” I thought. “If anything, I should be headed west.” So, thinking I’d been heading north, I turned left and realized…. I had no idea where I was. This road was headed more south than west.
I surrendered to the phone. “Turn right.” I did. “Turn right.” Again, I did. “Turn right.”
The phone was now directing me back in the direction from which I’d just come… and (I discovered by clicking ahead a few moves)…. back to the 405!!!
Lesson one: If we ask subject matter experts to guide us, we ignore them (often) at our peril.
Lesson two: I recalled a question at the rental car counter – “Would you like a map, sir?” – and my response – “No, thank you. I have GPS.”
A thoughtful peek at a map before I set out would have been very handy.
I’d be late, for sure.
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