A few thoughts on travels with Gigi

I recently traveled around Washington State with Gigi for a few days, all the way out to the ocean and back. Gigi was often the navigator. She gives advice in a calm, clear voice, and most of the time she knows where she’s going. When she doesn’t — which isn’t often — she still remains composed and continues giving directions. I, on the other hand, get confused when Gigi and I don’t know where we’re going, and when I’m confused, the last thing I want or need is someone giving me directions — especially if I’m trying to concentrate on driving. What I need is to pull off the road for a bit so I can parse out how to get back on track.

Gigi is good help navigating this.

Gigi may not understand this, for she keeps giving direction until I signal that I’ve had enough, and that she should now be quiet for a while and let me — the human in the cab — figure out what small or large thing needs to be done to get back on route. When I hit the “X” on the screen, she immediately shuts up and lets me think. I love Gigi for that.

Gigi is my nickname for Google Girl, the woman who lives inside of the Google Maps app on my cell phone. She does sound more like a woman, but the alliterative value of Google Girl is about three times that of Google Woman. And thinking of her as “GW” would remind me often of our 43rd president, whose reign was not my favorite 8 years ever.

Gigi gives helpful hints to navigating places like the SR 18/I-5/I-705/US 99/SR 16 spaghetti plate of multi-layered bridges, on-ramps and off-ramps; multitudinous green signs and yellow signs and flashing orange signs; and merges, entrances and exits. Finally, after the Tacoma Narrows bridge, Gigi says “Follow State Route 16 for 36 miles.” And there is the sweet freedom to just drive in silence for a while.

To Gigi’s infinite credit, in a situation like that, she is priceless. But sometimes, out in the middle of nowhere, Gigi asks me to do something completely stupid.

She’s not so great out here, though.

“In a quarter mile, turn left onto Mudslide Canyon Road,” she says. The name alone is enough to alert me to possible error on Gigi’s part, and the alarm-yellow sign stating, “Primitive Road. Travel At Your Own Risk,” confirms it. I admit that I have often driven past those sorts of signs and found magic places — roads leading to good campsites and wild country. They are, dammit, getting rarer. But you can still find them if you try.

Gigi is not much help in that. She is always trying to get us on the fastest route to wherever I’ve asked help to get to. Sometimes, she even highlights a section of road on the screen and says something like, “This route is 3 minutes faster,” as if faster is better; which, regrettably, a large portion of our culture seems to believe. But I have learned to ignore her in certain situations, and it never seems to hurt her feelings.

Gigi is an amazing woman. Or automaton. Or whatever. Her navigation skills are incredible, she has a nice voice, she NEVER gets angry or even too excited. She just goes about her job in a pleasant way and becomes quiet when I insist. That she is not human is somewhat regrettable. It would be nice to have someone real in the passenger seat. They might even want to drive sometime, which would work out fine. But we’ll take Gigi along as well.

Sandy Compton’s latest book is The Dog With His Head On Sideways. It’s available at Vanderford’s, DiLuna’s, the Corner Bookstore, the Sanders County Ledger and online at bluecreekpress.com/books or Amazon.