What if we had our own GPSes?

I was driving to teach my last class of the day recently when the GPS on my phone instructed me to take a different route. Apparently there was an accident ahead on my original route. Nice. Saves me time and aggravation. Hmm, I got to thinking what would it be like if we had our own personal GPS to guide us through life with the least amount of time and aggravation?

Imagine, you meet someone you are attracted to; you hit it off right away. Your heart is pounding, your palms are sweaty. ”This could be the one”, you think. Then you hear the voice on your personal GPS tell you to veer around this person, nothing but wasted time and aggravation aplenty for you ahead if you continue on this course. What would you choose? Take the advice or sadly walk away from the possibility of some fun, passion, fulfillment before the cataclysm?

Driving is like life in that we are making our way to a foreseen destination. But unlike life, we usually don’t look for adventures on our way to work. We want a direct movement from point A to Point B. No surprises. No delays. No going off-script.

And yet, isn’t going off script really where the juicy bits are? Think back to your days in elementary school. For me it was Catholic school with nuns for teachers. I don’t remember hardly anything about the majority of my days where I did what I was told, where I stayed on-script. What I do remember are the days when something different, something unexpected happened. The day I ran after a ball that had escaped our fenced schoolyard risking corporal punishment; the excitement in having milk delivery duty; the funeral of one of our young classmates.

These experiences add to our character, our humanity, our humility. They form the person we will become. While they may be aggravating or humiliating or heartbreaking, they make us compassionate beings. They make us relatable to others.

And then there is the fact that when things go as planned all the time, complacency results. After a recent overnight trip to a city a few hours away by flight, I got to experience both when things go as planned and when things go really really off script. My husband and I left Sacramento to fly to Palm Springs via San Francisco the other day. The way there went just as planned (some would say “just as it should”). The flights took off at the times they were expected to, our seats were just as assigned and were we happy campers? No. We were just campers because it happened as it expected. The next day, however, was out of the twilight zone: we got to the Palm Springs airport on time, went through security, got to our gate. And the plane was delayed. At first, we weren’t too concerned. We had a short layover once we landed in SFO before boarding our flight to Sac; we didn’t have checked luggage and we thought if we walked fast, we would make it. Then it was delayed further. Now we knew we wouldn’t make our connecting flight. We considered our options: there was another flight from SFO to Sac 3 hours later and another one around 10 pm. We could also rent a car and drive the 2 hours to Sacramento. So we fly to SFO; an airline agent says she has booked us for the last 2 seats for the 6 pm flight. So we wait, have dinner (which was not good, in keeping) and get to our gate for boarding. The flight is now delayed until 9 pm!!! We decide, along with another passenger we have just met, to rent a car and leave the flying option behind. The rental car is the cheapest option available; we just want to get from point A to point B. Luckily we have our GPS apps. We knew traffic getting away from the SF airport is going to be thick but we bear with it. We are inching onto the Bay Bridge along with a gazillion other cars and our rental car tells us (on its computer screen) that it is overheating and to stop and wait 5 minutes. Really. The perfect time and place. There is nowhere to pull to the side where we are. And then the rental car freezes…..it will not respond to commands of any sort: doesn’t matter what gear it is in, whether it is restarted, what names it is called. No habla.

Our new friend in the backseat is calling the car rental company to little avail. Finally he gets a human on the line who tells us he can dispatch a tow truck to tow our sick little car and the 3 of us to the Sacramento airport, where our own car is parked. Meanwhile, the gazillion other cars that want desperately to be where they are not are really not happy with our decision to stop on the entrance ramp to the Bay Bridge and are not shy about sharing their feelings with us.

Whether it was enough time for our little car to rest or maybe his “I think I can, I think I can” affirmation worked, but we got moving again. Slowly but surely we chugged along, grateful now for every mile we crossed.

We made it home that night, safely and having made a new friend. The rental car company erased any charges in their sympathy for us. Found out later that the later flight out of SFO was cancelled.

So next time your GPS reroutes you, be thankful it’s just for your drive, getting you from point A to point B with as little aggravation as possible. But know that oftentimes life is full of aggravation that you can’t always avoid. And in the end it helps you to appreciate the ease, when things go as planned or at least that the aggravation you were handed wasn’t as bad as it could have been.