Ask Siri how to get where you’re going, and she’ll tell you, “In two hundred feet, turn left at Market Street.” When you miss that turn, she’ll adjust her directions, unperturbed by your error. “In a quarter mile, turn left at Waverly Avenue.” One way or another, Siri’s GPS master will guide you home.
But I miss maps. I miss all those Thomas Guides, coming out each year with new additions marking the way to new destinations. I miss wandering various routes to get someplace, knowing the adventure was in the travel along back roads and new tracts, not the destination. If I got lost, I’d just pull out Thomas and find two or three options out of my quandary.
Lucky for me because I have no intuitive sense of direction. Just think how many times I’ve ended up on the back deck staring at the eucalyptus trees swaying in the wind when I was on my way to the laundry room. Who wants to sort white clothes from colors when I could be finding the perfectly colored autumn leaf, studying the bark peeling like blisters from the trunk, or watching ants march along the trail their queen has commanded?
Siri would tell me, “Turn around at the patio door and enter the living room. Proceed directly to the garage and park at the washing machine. Sort clothes.” My impulse is to grab the map and look for forests nearby. What trees grow there? I must explore. Laundry can wait.
People no longer have a sense of where they are in the world. Turning right or left in hundreds of feet gives no idea of placement. We don’t realize we’re only a few miles from the ocean, or around the corner from the favorite playground where we played as kids. Thomas Guides would tell us when we examined its pages, but Siri never makes the connection so neither do we.
I find similar displacement when looking up words on the online thesaurus instead of browsing the 1248 pages of The Original Roget’s International Thesaurus, 6th Edition.
Take the word “belief.” Its designation in Roget is number 953, and there are twenty categories displaying hundreds of entries from nouns to verbs to adverbs. The word “philosophy” is similarly described in number 952, and 954 is the word “credulity.” Peruse the thousands of words and you grasp relationships far beyond believing in anything. You begin to believe in everything as a possibility. Some of the things I learned were the relationship of belief to opinion, esteem, faith, trust, understanding, credibility, swallow, certainty, conviction, persuasion, dogma, confession, gullibility, ingenuous, viewpoint, notion, estimation, and idealism. All that education and much more in five pages. The broad spectrum of language doesn’t display as much diversity or breadth of interpretation on the Internet, not without a lot of clicking and toggling.
Luddite that I am, don’t despair. I’m on the Internet plenty, looking up photographs of macaws which leads to exploring the rainforests of Peru, then discovering that macaws are zygodactyl. Nope, not gonna tell you – look it up. And in case you want to know how much of a Luddite I really am, consider that I used to design patterns for fabric, eventually to be printed in yards and yards of cotton that became board shorts, bikinis, and Hawaiian shirts, by drawing and painting them with Luma dyes on masa paper. Luma dyes are long discontinued, sadly, but masa paper is still available. Except for my turquoise-faced self portrait, a three-minute sketch made about ten years ago, I’ve never designed art on the computer. I love the slick sensation of real paint on my hands and the stain of color under my fingernails lasting through several showers. Who wouldn’t love to dress up in sequins and heels with teal colored streaks on their hands? I’ve attended more than one wedding so uniquely decorated.
We will not discuss texting. I refuse to read them, I can’t write them. I have a flip phone but not a smart one, and texting is an exercise in self control on the device. My default strategy is the smash the cell phone against a wall when trying to text, so I don’t. Want to talk to me? Do it the old fashioned way – run into me in the mall, or call me on the landline, or even send me an email. Texting is for the birds, hyper-texting is for Twitter, and surely you realize I’ve never had anything to do with Twitter. My birds were all real, beautiful cockatiels who played with my sons when they were little.
I’ve learned just enough digi-techie stuff to get by in the modern world but not enough to be useful to anyone but me. To prove my point: we finally donated our nineteen-year-old car to the high school auto shop program. As of a month ago, I’m driving a much safer 2015 RAV 4 and have learned how to start the car without a key. Without a key, I tell you! But I haven’t programmed Siri, or whoever likes to give driving directions, into the car. So I still need a map. At least, I look up where I want to go on Map Quest. But only because they no longer update the Thomas Guides.
Funny the things you miss as you grow older.
Image courtesy of The Original Roget’s International Thesaurus, 6th Edition, copyright Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D., 2001, Harper Collins.
Image of The Geographer by Johannes Vermeer. This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:
This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less – published anywhere before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.