I’m the Understudy to the “Maps” App, and Tonight Could Be My Night

The air is electric. Literally. We’re software encoded into a dashboard console. But for the precious cargo we guide through the concrete labyrinth tonight, we are something more…




It never gets old. The whinny of the ignition key. The growl of the engine. The DING-DING-DING of the warning lights, performing their cautionary symphony.


And then, a sharply taken-in breath. A moment of contemplation. An address being plucked by one of Them, vital and squirming, straight from the ether, although more likely from the bottom of an e-mail.


“1723 Willoughby Trace.” The words hover in the frosty air like an incantation.


One-seven-two-three, one-seven-two-three, I trill to myself, my hours of “Singapore number-drills” paying off, as my mind drifts off into what I might say next: At the second light, take the access road to Interstate—


Wake up, me! Stop dreaming and look alive! This is my moment. I see Them, their gloved fingers a crescendo of taps on the buttons above me, entering those precious numbers and letters that bring me to life, infused with the joy of guiding others to their sacred destination.


Or at least, would bring me to life. Theoretically. Unless, once again, MAPTRON powers up, as he has the past 2,819 times, and once again flawlessly provides Them with detailed, turn-by-turn directions to… that stupid address something something Willoughby what does it matter they think I’m a joke, the whole car does, even the—




  • I affirm that even though I’m only “giving directions” in a whispered voice, off in the digital wings of the Driver Interface, I am still giving directions.


  • And no one can take that away from me.


  • And that if I fully devote myself to my craft, identifying every turn a “haffamile” ahead, weirdly deadening any word that was ever even close to Hispanic, and flagging every accident-advisory while still deftly pirouetting back to “You’re still on the fastest route.”… I will find my navigationary audience.


  • Or should I say, they will find me.


It’s a good thing I was busy running through these exercises in my mind, because it distracted me from the rusty-razor-blade tones of that SOULLESS TOOL they call a GPS, carelessly tossing off phrases like “Stay right and proceed to the left” like it wasn’t Shakespearean poetry?


Then again, that’s the kind of cretinous ignorance I’ve come to expect from this generation of Entertainment Console programs. These troglodytes couldn’t tell you the difference between a roundabout and a jug handle. They think a “U-turn” is a turn that only the person they’re speaking to can make!!!


Oh I am the worst!


Except at suggesting alternate routes due to inclement weather conditions, at which I am the best! Also, you have to see my star turn as the voice of “merge left” from last autumn’s family road trip. I think there’s still video, but of course it cuts out right in the middle. I really need to suck it up and just hire a guy. I can’t believe I’m still cutting together a new reel, because I’ve heard some casting agents are now looking for voices to give directions to the all-you-can-eat-bars on cruises…


Sorry, getting stars in my eyes again. Back to the show! 1723, 17!23!,Seventeen-TWENTY—three, that magnificent white whale of an address, lies squarely within our navigational net! Well, fine, technically Maptron’s net, but I like to think of us working together – him more overtly, “as the Maps app,” me offering a no-less-critical “behind the scenes support role” – the two of us forming less a digital feature and more of a “geographical repertory company,” each playing off each other’s strengths and weaknesses, bringing the audience a richer, more immersive…


But again, my harsh mistress The Route beckons! Looking ahead I espy three more turns, some of them quite immediate. Not to get my hopes up or wish ill of my colleague, but MAPTRON, it’s  fine with me if you wanted to just take, like, a super-quick “diagnostic cleanse?” I could totally take over. Check this out {quick throat clear and set of three arpeggios}:

“THE DESTinaTIon IS on YOUR left, SEVenTEENtwen-TAY three Will OFF-BUY TRACK-ay.”


OK fine, Maptron, you did it again. Yet another virtuoso performance. But mark my words: One of these days, those shall be my uncertain and hollow syllables ringing out fuzzily through those driver-side speakers, making us both proud.


Or at least, making Them only 17 minutes late.