Monday, June 8, 2009

On the road with Lorcan

I am traditionally very slow to embrace new technology, displaying the wariness that is characteristic of my generation.
I was the last in the family to get a mobile phone, only succumbing when one of my wife’s hand-me-downs was forced on me, as apparently, and despite my protestations, I need to be contactable at all times of the day and night.
When the DVD player doesn’t do what it is supposed to, I sidle out of the room and gallantly leave my wife to pore over the instruction manual to find out where the problem lies. I am still not sure what an MP3 player is, never mind MP1 and 2. And having only just mastered the art of playing a CD, the whole concept of an iPod is something of a bridge too far.
So far, I have managed to get away with it, arguing that the reason we had children in the first place was so that they could deal with new technology for us when it came along.
However, we have a foreign holiday coming up during which I’ll be doing a lot of driving, so it was decided, (not in my presence, I might add) that we should borrow my sister-in-law’s Satellite Navigation System to ensure we know exactly where we are at all times.
Naturally I protested. When, I argued, had I ever got lost when driving abroad?
Well, came the answer, there was the time I got lost between Disneyworld and International Drive; the time we missed the turn driving into Cologne and had to take three autobahns before we got back on track; the time we took the scenic route back to Girona airport from Perpignan; the time we couldn’t find our way out of a tiny village in the Algarve...
When the contraption arrived, I naturally had to test it out. As I suffer from a particular brand of Attention Deficit Disorder that won’t allow me to read instruction manuals, I got my son to show me the basics, like how to take it out of the box, how to attach it to the windscreen and how to turn it on. So far so good.
I then decided to test it out by typing in an address in the next estate to ours and seeing if it would direct me there. And yes, it worked.
Unfortunately, though, the address I chose, involved an incredible amount of left turns. “At the end of the road, turn left,” intoned Lorcan breezily. (My wife had decided that he sounded like a Lorcan). “Turn left, and, at the end of the road, turn left. Turn left and at the roundabout take the first exit left. Take the first exit left. In 300 yards, turn left. Turn left and at the end of the road, turn left...”
It was only a two minute journey but by the end of it, I was screaming at Lorcan to shut up. And then, very foolishly, I set the instructions to take us back home,
“Turn right,” said Lorcan. “Turn right and at the end of the road, turn right...”
We had to go down to Strokestown in lovely county Roscommon on the Bank Holiday weekend, which would be more of a test for Lorcan, we decided, even though I know the route like the back of my hand.
Surprisingly, Lorcan agreed with my decision that the best way to access the M4 was to head down the back roads to Leixlip, thus avoiding the Friday afternoon traffic on the M50. And once we hit the motorway, he shut up for 68 miles, which was delightful, though he failed to spot the toll bridge near Enfield and made my wife scramble in her handbag for some loose change to throw in the basket.
It was on the outskirts of Longford though that Lorcan and I had our first serious disagreement. The shortest way to Strokestown is to go through Longford town centre, turn left at The Longford Arms and keep going on the N5. I, on the other hand, have an aversion to sitting in traffic, inching through Longford and so I prefer to carry on to Rooskey and then cut cross country.
“Turn left at the roundabout,” intoned Lorcan. I ignored him and continued on straight along the by-pass. The screen wheeled around in disbelief. The readings disappeared as Lorcan obviously tried to figure out what to do next. Eventually, he figured it out.
“In 500 yards, turn left at the roundabout.”
“Forget it. That’ll lead me back into Longford,” I replied. Again, I continued on straight.
“At the next roundabout, turn left,” Lorcan repeated, after a few moments speechless disbelief at my insubordination.
“You’d better do what he says,” said my wife. “You’ll only make him upset.”
I grunted and continued on straight at the third and final roundabout.
“When it is safe to do so, turn around!” pleaded Lorcan urgently. “Turn around now. When it is safe, turn around.”
He kept it up half the way to Rooskey and then decided that he wanted me to turn right, which would have led me north towards Leitrim and Cavan. I suspected that, in a fit of pique, he was just saying the most ridiculous thing that came into his head, because he knew I wouldn’t pay any attention.
To be fair to him, though, at Rooskey, he finally copped on to what I was trying to do, though as we travelled down the road, he tried to tell me that I was in fact traversing a large field, which I could see quite plainly was a big fib. My wife put it down to the fact that we were only ironing out our relationship and he was just seeing how far he could push me.
I think I will use Lorcan sparingly when we go abroad. Possibly I’ll only turn him on when we are hopelessly lost and need a hero to get us back on the right road. Doubtless he’ll be grumpy about being used in such a way but what can you do?
Of course, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the man, sitting up there in a satellite, looking down at my car with a telescope and giving me directions. I still haven’t figured out how he manages to do it on a cloudy and overcast day. God bless his eyesight, that’s all I can say.

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