We recently caught up with the movie “Her” on Netflix. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s about a guy who falls in love with a Siri-like digital assistant endowed with a sexy voice (Scarlett Johansson’s) and the ability to learn and adapt, thanks to artificial intelligence.
The setting was futuristic, but only a little bit, because let’s face it, our devices are getting smarter all the time and many of us feel an emotional attachment to them. Just try to wrestle the iPad out of my cold, dead hands. I may ask to be buried with it so that I can play Candy Crush Saga in the afterlife.
I also have a thing for our GPS system. We call him Dave, after the Cheech & Chong routine with the punch line “Dave’s not here, man.” Indeed, Dave isn’t here, not really. And yet I have a relationship with him just the same.
Dave is a freestanding GPS box that we bought about five years ago. We’ve talked about replacing him with a newer model, but I’d miss him too much to let him go.
We use Dave in both of our vehicles. The newer car has its own built-in GPS, but we don’t trust it. On a couple of trips it sent us on Escher-like twists and turns, making the route needlessly complex. When we tried to override the algorithm by going a different way, in hopes the GPS would reset, the system hiccupped, snorted, harrumphed and began repeating itself, like a deranged person.
Dave, by contrast, is unflappable. In a situation like that he just says “Recalculating route” in his warm baritone, and then calmly issues new directions. If Dave were a movie, Morgan Freeman could voice him.
Dave went to Las Vegas with us early this year, plugging cheerfully into our rental car. He traveled to Rhode Island on two recent trips without complaint, and he’s been to Ohio, Masssachusetts, Florida and Vermont as well as more local trips.
He has his foibles. For example, he gets confused in parking lots, so we know to ignore him when pulling out of a hotel or strip mall. His pronunciation is eccentric. He murders “Matamoras,” the name of the next town from ours, for example. Anything multisyllabic is a problem. And then, he can’t figure out where we live—he thinks the Queen Anne up the block is home.
One time we were on a country road going to a friend’s house. Dave tried to send us across open fields and a golf course. And there’s a certain point on the trip to Columbus when he instructs us verbally to take the right fork in the highway while showing the left with huge blinking arrows on his screen. Perhaps Dave needs a software update.
Still, I appreciate Dave’s sangfroid. He never gets upset, even when you make a blunder. He just coolly tells you to “Make a U-turn” or “Turn around when you can.”
No matter what the situation, I know that Dave is on my side. He has my best interests at heart. He may not be real, but he’s got my back just the same.