Ahead, four near-empty traffic lanes stretched across Brisbane’s Gateway Bridge.
I continued driving along, ignoring the persistent voice.
I glanced at the metre-high concrete barrier separating the other four lanes of traffic.
“I’m not turning anywhere,” I declared and instead turned down the volume.
Sometimes, my Tom Tom has no idea where I’m going.
According to the three-and-a-half-inch map fastened to my windscreen, my little Echo was floundering in the middle of the Brisbane River.
My Tom Tom madly reconfigured its location, trying to pinpoint my whereabouts as I drove across the Gateway.
I should probably update the software, I thought, ignoring the voice’s insistent pleas to make a U-turn at the next imaginary road.
“I don’t think so,” I muttered, focusing on the road in front of me.
I know the way home from here.
I bought the Tom Tom as a Christmas present to myself about three years ago while living in Sydney.
For years I’d struggled with finding my way around the city using a street directory.
Don’t get me wrong – I can read a map. In fact, I’m an excellent navigator when I’m in the passenger seat.
I just can’t read a map and drive at the same time.
I was perpetually stopping beside the road to check the map, count how many streets before turning left/right, note landmarks - and drive safely.
My frustration was compounded by the lack of signage on some Sydney streets.
As a result, I had to drive several blocks down the road to find a street name, then re-check my coordinates with the street directory – not an efficient way to navigate around a big city.
Having Shaz as my navigator didn’t help either – after all, we once got notoriously lost in a national park (albeit on foot).
“Go straight here,” she’d say, as we sat in a right-turning lane, boxed in by other right-turning cars.
Or, “Oh, that’s the street we had to turn into,” she’d point out, long after we sped past it.
My Tom Tom was permanently attached to my windscreen when I relocated to the Sunshine Coast in early 2009. It made it so much easier to find my way around this part of Queensland.
It’s allowed me to get on with the job of driving towards my destination while it vocalizes appropriate instructions: At the end of the road, turn left.
Bonus features include:
· Distance and estimated travelling time – I like knowing that I’m just five minutes away!
· Choice of voices – do I want Irish Kathleen giving me instructions, or perhaps Aussie Kevin? I settled for Stav the Greek taxi driver (Oh, you’ve reached your destination, bravo, bravo).
· A beep notifies me of approaching traffic lights - in case I can’t see them.
· A loud noise warns me I’m travelling over the speed limit, although this is often a point of contention.
“No, I’m not,” I’d insist, “I just drove past an 80km sign… and I’m only doing 75.”
Yes, I’m talking to the electronic gadget that’s attached to my windscreen.
Doesn’t everyone else talk to their GPS?
How far is 850m?
I have no spatial understanding of distances - I can’t even map out 100m unless I’m standing on a marked athletics track.
So it’s useless when my Tom Tom announces that a right turn is coming up in 850m. It makes no difference if it’s in 300m.
As a visual person, I think in images and therefore understand instructions in the following format:
· Turn into the third street on the right.
· Take the second exit off the roundabout.
· Turn left after the big blue building on the next corner.
There's less chance of making a wrong turn due to a miscalculation of distance.
I barely refer to my street directory these days, and use my Tom Tom only if I’m travelling to a new destination.
I’ve uploaded enough data into my internal GPS and can get to most Sunshine Coast locations without electronic assistance.
Which means I'm no longer arguing with the imploring voice telling me to make a U-turn across four lanes of traffic on the Gateway Bridge!