I used to drive people crazy when we were quietly reading, or working in the same space, because I talk to myself a little bit. At the completion of a task, I might mumble, “Alrighty then,” or, “Okay!” or “Moving right along,” or some silly phrase from an ancient Monty Python episode. I also have an impressive collection of “Hmm’s, Umm’s,” and “what the hells?”
So it makes sense, that in spending a year alone on the road, I’d become a full-fledged looney, mumbling away in the supermarket or Walmart, as I work my way through my shopping list. I did find that wearing my iPhone ear buds helped reduce the stares and double-takes from the other shoppers. Over time, I realized that this self-talk also included me constantly criticizing myself, saying things like, “idiot,” “jerk,” “knucklehead,” and a very sarcastic “way to go!” or, “and for my next trick…”
I have medical issues with one inner ear, and this went undiagnosed for my entire childhood. The result was that I had terrible balance, and often didn’t hear things correctly. I was terribly clumsy, and my family nickname, bestowed by my mother was “The Klutz.” After I’d take a fall or make a mess mom would say, “There goes Klutzy,” or “My God! What the hell is the matter with you?” The legacy is this incredible array of self-mocking things that I was saying to myself all day long. Once I realized I was doing it, I started to work on stopping that bad habit.
The other thing I was doing, was talking back to my Garmin GPS unit. About midway through the year, she sent me down this ridiculous twenty miles of pot-holed dirt road. It was so bad, I thought I was never going to see my home again. After that adventure, I checked that the settings were set to NO unpaved roads, and to take the fastest, rather than the shortest routes. That is how she was programmed, but she had developed a taste for off-roading. I realized that I was often talking back to her; challenging many of the directions she’d give me. Even threatening to chuck her out the window if she was playing me.
So, in addition to pre-plotting all my drives with high-lighter and paper maps, and/or Google Maps, I began using the GPS programs on my phone as well, because I didn’t trust “Garmie” not to play any tricks on me en route. She needed a map-update brain transplant, but I couldn’t find my UPC cord to connect her to the computer to do it. My pal Kath has the same unit, so when we met in Moab, I asked her to bring her cord along. This she did, and I downloaded the “Lifetime Map Updater” package to my mac, but for some reason, my Garmin was able to resist the Vulcan Mind Meld, and stubbornly retained her quirks.
I really liked some features though, so I kept on using her: the large display, warnings of upcoming speed limit changes, sharp curves, steep grades, school zones, and the visual shape of the road or exit lane just ahead, made driving this large rig safer and easier. But she’d become sort of a blunt instrument, y'know? Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. One time, I caught her in the act of sending me more than eighty miles to make a u-turn and come all the way back, because she wasn't aware that a certain nearby road existed. My destination was just sixteen miles away! By this point, I knew better than to trust her, so after much eye rolling, and a few remarks questioning her mental health, I piloted the ship without her help. I am still able to negotiate a bit of road in daylight with a paper map and some road signs.
In my transition of returning to civilization I will face any number of challenges, and I hope I can stop this nattering away to myself, once I have others around to talk to.