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May 23rd 2016
Published: June 4th 2016
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Mixed feelings summersaulted around the walls of my mind as I gazed on a crimson film softly settling on the darkening sea, reflected from the fiery red bank of
cloud lit by the sun as it sank over the horizon like a burning wreck. The sea offered a melancholy wave goodbye. Look how the waves gently curl into the shape of a waving hand, before they crash on the sand. That night it was as calm as when Magellan named it ‘Pacific’ five thousand kilometres, and half am millennium away.

My thoughts were anything but calm. I wished I had been better prepared for this trip.

That dammed James the GPS had thrown a big bucket full of dirty spanners into the smoothly running machine I call ‘organisation’. In the last week, I had spent
too much time updating the GPS data file. Last minute preparations had been rushed. I kept wondering if I had forgotten something.

James is the name of the GPS who guides me around Europe, and I was packing to leave for France early the following morning.

I should tell you about the love/ hate relationship I have with James. On a good day, James is my hero. I can glance at his little screen above the dashboard, and get dynamically data about where I am driving. He shows a three dimensional coloured sketch of what is ahead, along with various statistics, such as my actual speed compared with the speed limit for that section of road, distance to destination and estimated time of arrival. It’s like having an all knowing passenger on my shoulder as he also speaks to me calmly instructing on road positioning, what turn to take next and warning about hazards ahead.

But James can be very naughty. He has a data base of every roundabout, speed bump and pothole in Europe, and when he gets bored or feels mischievous, uses his knowledge of inconvenient obstacles to steer me away from a smooth wide straight track and instead lead me down a bumpy, twisting, narrow lane. James likes to get the job completed, and at the end of a journey announces the end of a journey. But then there was a time when he jumped the gun, proclaiming ‘You have reached your destination! Grab the sunnies, wind up the windows and don’t let the seagulls eat your chips,’ smack bang in the middle of a roundabout.

Every GPS owner will have stories about being directed onto non-existent or impassable roads. One memorable experience had
James saying to turn left, when the road signs suggested turning right. Had I turned left, I would have crossed a deep ditch to get on a bicycle track. Furthermore,
I would have incurred extensive damage to the vehicle crossing the culvert he suggested.

It’s when he is challenged that I get amused. If I miss a turn, James makes a route recalculation and tries to guide me back to the planned route. However, sometimes local conditions make it impossible to follow his suggested route. James has some very Australian ways of dealing with that feeling of inadequacy he must have when his gets bushed. Sometimes his answer is to say ‘Mate, ‘Chuck a Uey’ and, if that passenger doesn’t stop laughing,ditch her at the next servo.’ Yes, he has an Aussie vocabulary.

He loves a laugh, at my expense. Sometimes there will be a chicane where there will be successive right and left turns interspersed with concentric or conjoined
roundabouts involving lane changes at short intervals. When he finishes instructing something like ‘...turn right, and then the first left, cross the
roundabout and take the sixth exit, enter the roundabout and turn left on the roundabout, take the first exit, then take the first left, then go straight
ahead, too easy.’ Too Easy – my foot. But do you have to sound like you’re laughing at the finish James?

Despite sometimes wanting to ditch James, I still value the times he works well. To help him achieve peak performance on my
next trip, I began the process of updating his maps. Free WIFI at my local library was just what I needed to download a huge file, which contains details
of every road, track, intersection, traffic signal, and speed limit in Europe.
After spending all day last Saturday, the job was only 70 percent finished. I returned on Monday and it appeared to be complete. However, after the last step
of installing new maps, an error message ‘File error Download failed No Maps Available’ appeared. So then, after all that time, I was in a worse position
than if I had done nothing. I did not even have access to the old maps.

Disappointed but hopeful, I began the process again on the following day. To download this file of maps, I had to link James to the supplier’s website using software on my computer. Because the downloading takes up all the computer’s resources, I am unable to use the computer for other tasks such as writing emails. For another two days I sat in the library watching the painfully slow progress bar, making lists of things to do before I left, but unable to attend to of them. At the end of the download, the same error message returned to James’ screen.

I am used to James’ mischief and usually I can deal with his obstreperous ways, but he was bringing out my Irish temper.
Determined not to let the little bastard win, I returned again to the library and to start once more. All that time I was frantically re-organising my list of
tasks that had to be done before leaving. It felt like Ground Hog day when, at the end of the process, James claimed victory again, displaying his error
message. On the evening before leaving, I regretted bothering with that last attempt. I would have had time to attend to those last minute arrangements steadily
and with proper care. Instead, I had rushed those chores and taken shortcuts.

After watching the sun set, I finalised my packing, leaving James the GPS on the bench. I’ll leave this useless piece of junk behind. The budget doesn’t allow
for getting a new GPS, but we will have to make adjustments somewhere
. I declared the end of James’ reign of terror.

The hotel I checked into in Paris, included unlimited WIFI, so I sent off a few emails advising of our safe arrival and sending a few messages that I had not dealt with before leaving due to the time wasted in that James. Then Pat pulled James out of her bag. She had seen him on the bench and let him stowaway in her
suitcase. I set the system up to try the download again. One last chance before you go in the garbage. When I woke up, a bleak sky foreshadowed a cold miserable day. But there was a bright spot. James displayed a happy message ‘Download complete. Your maps are up to date.’ So the challenge is on - James the GPS
versus me, on any road (or goat track) in Europe.

it on
Jimmy. I am ready for your
disruptive drama.


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