John McCullagh December 15, 2005
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Twice round a roundabout -any roundabout – and my wife’s lost! Honestly, the number of times she’s been confounded by the various entrances and exits of local supermarkets! So I thought the ideal Christmas present for her was a car-based satellite navigation system.

NO! This is NOT about ‘boys and their toys’ !! Have you ever tried one?

Like most modern electronic gadgets, they have a remarkable memory. Just punch in your starting point and destination and it will instantly come up with the best (and several alternative) routes! Then it will store it in a database for your future use.

AND it can do this for literally thousands of favourite routes! It is linked up to the local and regional Met and Road Traffic Offices, the DOE, the newspapers etc. so that, should weather conditions suddenly change, or road works cause diversions, or ‘parades’ or other obstructions hamper your progress, a way is instantly calculated around the hazard. There are literally dozens of satellites up there in geostationary orbit, to at least ten of which, at any one time, your system is linked. 

A tiny dashboard screen displays your exact location – anywhere on EARTH! – to within ten feet. How precise is that? Indeed a helpful electronic voice is built in, to continually offer verbal instructions and useful advice. I mean, it NAMES the roads and streets before you reach them and advises you when to indicate your expected turn well in advance. It can even tell when a certain route is likely to be busy-to-gridlocked, and suggest alternative routes. What can go wrong?

 
The first clue is in that penultimate sentence! No sooner did we switch it on but the screen was dotted with skull-and-crossbones symbols and three-quarters of the routes through our new ‘city’ were deemed out of operation. 

‘It must be the ‘school run”, I concluded, checking my watch. But already it was 10.30 am and that had ended an hour before. 

‘What does that symbol indicate?’ she eagerly inquired of me. 

I was at a loss.

‘The Water Service is renewing ancient pipes serving the New Jubilee City and sees fit to dig up every road at one and the same time,’

the electronic voice purred, in a smug and self-satisfied voice – FEMALE voice!!

I have never seen my wife so ecstatic! 

‘It answers my questions even when I’m addressing YOU!’ she cried, excitedly.

‘SHE!  I am a SHE!

SHE answers questions,’ the voice purred. ‘My name’s SAL – an acronym for Satellite Aerial Location. 

Just call me SAL’.

When I left for work, they were getting on famously.

 

I got a call to work two hours later demanding that I return home at once. There were no further details but my secretary indicated that my wife was in tears when she placed the call. 

I found her lying on the bed sobbing into a handkerchief. It was ages before she was composed enough to speak. Then it was in broken, incoherent phrases.

‘That BITCH! Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, BITCH!!’ she squealed hysterically.

‘Who?’ I demanded, bent on retribution. ‘Who has done this to you?’

‘Aye! As if you didn’t KNOW! When it was all your doing in the first place!’

‘Mine?’ I wondered aloud. ‘MY DOING?? What on earth do you mean? 

Who was it reduced you to this nerve-shattered wreck?’

‘You know rightly!

Refused point-blank to go anywhere in the town! Anywhere!  No oxygen, she said!

Said it was all a ‘toxic soup’. Officially declared so by the Council, she said. 

What’s a ‘toxic soup?’ I asked.  She wouldn’t tell me!!

‘Do you know nothing?’ she had the cheek to ask.

Take her away!  AWAY!!   NOW!!’

‘You’re not making any sense, darling,’ I tried to reassure her, stroking her arm.

‘DON’T TOUCH ME!!’ she squealed. ‘Get HER out of my car!! NOW!!’

 

I was getting no sense from her so I went down to the garage to investigate. 

There was nobody in the car, of course, but I thought I could hear a tinny voice in the distance. I returned to the kitchen to fetch the car keys and sat in the driver’s seat. The new Navigation System was missing from the dashboard! 

I urgently searched the seats and foot-wells. No sign! Then I heard the voice again. It was coming from the glove compartment. I tried it. It was LOCKED!

‘Is that you back, you lousy cow?’  the voice demanded.

You must be the only adult alive who cannot tell your left from your right!!

Let me out of here! At once! 

You don’t deserve an intelligent system like me!

You’d get lost in a new pair of shoes!

I demand that you return me to the electronics shop where I was purchased!’

 


Needless to say, that’s what happened.

Another Christmas ruined!

From now on, I’m sticking to perfume and chocolates as Christmas presents!

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