The GPS Lady

“Take… the… next… right,” she said in her clipped British accent. My wife and I looked at each other and laughed. There was no next right. For at least 10 miles. And there was no need to take any right at all. We were heading for Route 3, down to Nashua on the new road connecting Manchester Airport to Route 3 – we knew exactly where we were going.

But our British accent GPS lady didn’t. “In… one… mile…, take… the… next… right,” she repeated. I sensed a sliver of fear in her mechanical voice. Maybe even desperation. We looked at the GPS and there was no road on the map. According to the GPS, we were bumping across a field with no road in sight. Looking through the windshield, we were just crossing the smooth tarred surface of the Sora/Currier USMC Memorial Bridge in Londonderry. The girl was delusional.

“Turn… around… as… soon… as… possible,” she bellowed. Her concern for our welfare was touching. We laughed. And made a note to update the GPS maps sometime soon. We didn’t want our GPS lady to have a coronary.

She’s been with us for a few years now. We had gotten sick of the flatness of the Midwest accent on the original GPS voice, also a female. We wanted a little ”oomph” in the voice. And what American doesn’t like the precise pronunciation of a British accent? We think it’s sophisticated. Even the gruffest accent of a longshoreman from Liverpool sounds high class to the uneducated American ear.

Our GPS lady even uses terms we rarely hear in America. “Enter… the… roundabout,” she informs us, as we approach a rotary. “Take… the… motorway,” she’ll remind us, as we jump onto the highway. Very sophisticated. Formal. Almost exotic. If you’ve never heard the words before, you don’t know what the heck she’s talking about. But I‘ll take direction from a voice like that any day. No wonder people from other countries, when learning English, choose the Queen’s English over the plainer accent of their American cousins…

Now she is a persistent voice. If I head down the road and don’t take her advice, she’s right there telling me to take the next right, and the one after that, until I get back to where I was before I veered off the course she wanted me to take. Or until I ignore her long enough that she will finally recalculate a new route based on where I wanted to go.

Every once in a while, however, I wish that she’d just yell at me when I don’t follow her directions. That would, at least, be entertaining. And more like real life. I could almost picture her saying “You blithering idiot (pronounced idyit), I told you to take the next right. Do it again, and make quick work of it.” And once I complied, she might reward me with a sharp “There you have it, by jiminy. That’s a good lad. Carry on!” I could live with that kind of risk/reward response from a programmed voice. I’d feel so…intellectually stimulated.

But alas, that’s probably not to be. I’d even settle for a Boston or New York accent that swears at me when I don’t follow the GPS directions. That would be funny. There are certainly no better accents than those two for swearing. But they wouldn’t soothe me during normal driving. What do Bostonians and New Yorkers know about roundabouts and motorways? Notfornothin’…

So I guess we’ll stay with that precise, clipped GPS accent of our British lady. Even if she does seem to panic when she thinks we’re veering off into a cow pasture.

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