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A little GPS can be big aggravation

February 19, 2012
By ESTHER MCCOY - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

I would have never thought that a small rift could occur in the McCoy marriage, made by a tiny instrument with the initials GPS.

We asked for and received one such instrument for Christmas from our son, Darin, last year. And I hasten to add this was 2010, not 2011.

Since we knew where we were going for an entire year, we let it rest in peace in the glove compartment. Do they still call it that or am I really back in the dark ages?

Last month, we received an invitation to my aunt Vicki Kollar's 90th birthday luncheon in Massillon, and the invitation gave the address, with my cousin, Missy, saying it would be better to GPS it. Little did she know that she was instructing two people who have trouble trying to find missed calls on their cell phones.

We agonized for a week before working up the courage to go to the car, parked in the turnoff alongside our county road and try to make sense of the directions.

We plugged the GPS cord into the cigarette lighter, an addition to our car instrument panel I had not noticed before, and waited until the brand name appeared. Then a screen gave us four choices. The instructions said to touch navigate. Lamont did this. I wasn't about to touch anything for fear of messing up the system.

Then it was "find address." Easy so far, but I'm sure we looked rather weird to those who drove by and saw two senior citizens seated with their heads very close together in the car in the cold of winter. If they noticed further, they would have seen looks of exasperation on our faces as time went by.

A screen appeared to determine the continent where we expected to travel. We finally decided on the United States. How easy is it to drive to Europe anyhow?

Then the state. I didn't realize you had to scroll down to get to our beloved state of Ohio. All the "A" states kept popping up. Finally Lamont figured it out, without my help. Next came the town, and we had to type in Massillon. This was my job, and I became upset when I saw lots of letters disappearing after touching the capital letter "M." I finally figured out that the "A" that I needed was there and likewise all the other letters that were needed to spell the city.

Next came the part where I failed to heed instructions. It was asking for the street name, but I was trying to put in the house number first ,and it kept making up streets such as Fifth Street or Fifth Avenue. Of course this was because I was hitting the first numeral in the house number. After getting very aggravated and deciding it would be better if I just threw it out the window, Lamont looked at it and knew what to do.

On the practice run, we learned how to program it. But what a difference three days make! On the day of departure, we couldn't remember how we got the street address in and sat there and practically chewed each other's fingernails.

After a time, Lamont go it up and running and then we couldn't get the little plastic gizmo to attach with a sucker cup to the windshield to keep it up. I decided that I would hold the GPS, aiming it toward the sky as the instructions demanded.

Since we knew how to get to Navarre, as my cousin, Frank Kollar, lives there, and we made it without the aid of a GPS four years earlier, we were not paying attention as we were coming to the turnoff to get on state Route 250. Much to our surprise, the robotic female voice - Darin programmed it to talk as a female. I would have preferred the calming voice of a male - directed us to turn right at a route I knew narrowed down to a gravel road. I knew because I traveled it to a church shower for a niece several years earlier.

We ignored it and went on to the 250 exit. The voice kept repeating "route recalculation, route recalculation" reminding me of "Lost Space" where the robot keeps repeating "danger."

After that, we started doubting that it would tell us how to get to our destination but decided we had loads of time and we should follow the GPS.

We were very excited to get to our party location and have the voice say, "You have arrived at your destination".... and we actually did.

Going home was another matter. We came outside to discover an inch of swirling snow on the cars and parking lot. Lamont didn't care much about the GPS directions at that minute.?He just wanted to get out of the oncoming snow storm. That left me to reprogram the way home.

I didn't realize all I needed to do was hit sleep when we exited the car, it would have taken us back. As I tried to hit County, the first word in our County Road 20 address, I couldn't get further than "Co" before streets such as Coal Road, Coal Hill, Colerain Pike and other areas popped up. Again, I threatened to pitch the device out the window.

Lamont suddenly realized that he remembered the way back. So much for help from that little talking machine. And to beat all, even though it was not giving us the right directions, the voice kept telling Lamont that he was speeding.

Going to Columbus to see our two sons and their families this past week-end, we decided to practice using the GPS, even though we knew the way to go. There was no trouble in getting Jay's address programmed in but the GPS decided to send us on state Route 40, while we always travel I-70. With the recalculation exclamation each time we passed the exit it wanted us to take, it would again try to send us on Route 40 at the next exit. If a robot can get exasperated, I think this one would do so. And it kept telling Lamont that he was speeding again. It finally agreed that we needed to take I-270 and all was well then, as it told us what lane to use. And it made the exclamation "You have arrived at your destination," and we had done just that!

A funny thing happened on the way. We didn't decide to use the GPS until we were in Rayland. Lamont pulled over to assist me with the directions and along came a neighbor, stopping to see if we were in trouble. When I explained we were programming the GPS, Joel Steffik said, "What's the matter, don't you know where you are?" Quite embarrassing, I must admit.

Anyhow, there were a few arguments and a few hissy fits out of me in trying to get the instrument programmed, which makes me think that we would be better off with a road map. At least, I know how to read that.

While in Columbus Friday through Sunday, we took in six basketball games. I thought I would get stripe imprints on my jeans from the bleachers!

Jessie cheers for the Worthington Christian School freshman team. So I watched her with pride. Then came the junior varsity team, and neither granddaughter cheered for this team, so we went to the cafeteria and ate some dinner and came to catch the last half of that game. Darin, Missy, Jackson and Maggie had joined us by then.

Last, it was Amber's turn to cheer for the varsity team. And I'm sure every grandmother knows the feeling of pride that comes from observing their grandchild in action.

On Saturday, Jackson, Matthew, Jay, Darin, Lamont and I went to see "Star Wars, Episode 1, the Phantom Menace" in 3-D. It was fun seeing Jackson jump when something looked as if it were coming out of the screen.

Two people forgot to deposit their 3-D glasses when we left - we won't say who - but the two young guys were wearing them all afternoon. Then Matthew poked the lens out of his and was trying to imitate Steve Earkle from the comedy show of days past.

On Sunday, we went to Grace Brethren Church, where they have magnificent music from an orchestra of violins, wind and brass instruments and piano. The church holds more people than are located in Smithfield, Dillonvale and Piney Fork combined. I'm always amazed.

Then we headed to The Hoop, a gigantic sports arena located near the Columbus Airport, where we watched Matthew play in three games before heading home. It was a busy time but great to be with the kids.

Margaret made a baked French toast casserole for Sunday breakfast that was very tasty. I'm going to try it and feature the recipe in a future cooking column. It's nice to get new ideas.

I managed to come home with a lump over my right eyebrow from running into a closet wall while trying to get back to a very darkened bedroom. I saw stars for a few minutes and then had a headache for the rest of the night. I'll remember to bring my little flashlight along the next time.

It was a great time, except for the lump that I brought home with me.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and the Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at

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