Grasshopper Soup: Information, the lost frontier
February 23, 2010
How did Christopher Columbus, Magellan, Lewis and Clark, Marco Polo, Genghis Khan and Daniel Boone ever find their way without Microsoft, Google or GPS devices? Ancient explorers didnand#8217;t even know where they were going half the time, but, for better or worse, they got there, without Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak or Steve Jobs.
We all know some people are so obsessed with hand held devices they forget to look out the window of the car to see the world, even the drivers. They do whatever their little gadget tells them to do, and reply back. They use GPS in familiar territory, as lost as Alice in Wonderland. Even well traveled, experienced, educated common sense people believe their little cyber-wizard knows the streets better than Al Capone.
GPS is great if you are lost at sea, but it may also be why you are lost at sea.
My first experience using computer directions was with my dad. We were looking for the train depot in Colfax, Calif. I had been through Colfax many times. My intuition told me that the train depot was fairly close to the center of town. But there was always a hint of doubt in my mind because usually I was just passing through. I decided to humble myself and defer to my dadand#8217;s child-like faith in his trusty, computer enhanced map. I knew he wouldnand#8217;t be very surprised if the whole thing was a big screw up.
When confronted with the unknown, and having only yourself and others to depend on as you make your way through the universe, humility can come in very handy. If you practice humility, you could be sitting on top of the world. After all, Jesus himself said, and#8220;He who humbles himself will be exalted.and#8221; Well, I humbled myself for my dad, and we got lost.
Oh, we followed the directions on the map perfectly. It led us far away, into some of the steepest terrain in the Sierra Nevada foothills. There was no place for a railroad. In 1860, Theodore Judah could see that. With crude instruments even for that time, he discovered the best train route. With humility, we asked some locals, who were becoming quite rare, where the depot was. We could tell by their reaction we were not the first. The train depot was right where I thought it was, on the other side of the freeway near the middle of downtown Colfax. And Jesus was right. Dad and I were exalted when it became clear that my intuition was more highly advanced than anything Microsoft could produce.
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As you know, the streets of Tahoe Donner are like spilled pretzels. The twisted maze would make Admiral Byrd lose his bearings, even with a map. Recently I took a very nice woman and her two children to a house she had never been to up there. GPS firmly in hand, she followed the White Rabbit down his hole to the Mad Hatterand#8217;s Tea Party. Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee were covered with pretzel crumbs. The Red Queen and the GPS kept changing their minds. Once again, relying on nothing but intuition and a hunch, I found the house in the middle of a wonderland of nonsense.
But the best laugh I ever had with a follower of GPS was in Reno. Between him, me and the GPS, it was obvious who was in charge. I told him the car rental was at the airport, but his GPS said it was under the freeway with the wine bottles and old sleeping bags. I played along. The GPS literally had us going around in circles. Finally, he got dizzy and realized his precious GPS was nothing but a bunch of stupid micro chips, and the car rental place still wouldnand#8217;t be there, even the third time around.
Still clinging to his toy, he hinted at the promise of future advances in the wonderful world of information technology by saying, and#8220;I paid $1,200 bucks for it, but now you can get them for $600.and#8221;
With as much child-like mirth as I could muster (which was a lot), I pleaded, and#8220;Iand#8217;ll give you 50 bucks for it!and#8221;
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 27 years.