My family isn’t very spontaneous. I would go so far as to say we are planners. Some members more than others, but in general we don’t do much on the spur of the moment.
So when my parents and I decided to drive from CT to Eastern New York state to surprise my brother at his new job just two days before the fact, it was like we were living on the edge.
I guess I should clarify that my brother works as a bartender. It’s not like we were going to surprise him at his office job. That would be weird.
Anyway, at around 4:00 on a Friday we headed out after picking up my Dad at work, our two dogs in tow (they go everywhere we do, they don’t like to be separated from their “pack”).
My mom was driving, with her GPS guiding her. We hit some traffic on 1-91 and then later on 1-90 which caused us to accept the GPS’s suggestion of an alternate route.
So that’s how we ended up driving through the secondary roads of rural Western Massachusetts, up through the Berkshires. It would have been a scenic drive, except it was dark.
At one point, as the GPS was telling us to take yet another questionable secondary road, my dad decided he had had enough with the woman’s voice and wanted to see if he could change the GPS to a man’s voice. I know that logically, having a GPS give weird directions isn’t going to change whether it’s a man or a woman’s voice, but that is not entirely important.
Anyway, turns out “Jill” was our only English-language option, there was no male’s voice. So my dad switched it over to “Ana”, who, you guessed it, spoke Spanish.
“En una milla, gira a la izquierda,” said Ana.
“In a mile you have to take a left, Mom!” I quickly translated for her, as my dad and I laughed at the funny GPS lady speaking in Spanish. My mom was not as amused.
What happened next just proves that I am a combination of my parents. Just like my Dad, I thought it was pretty funny that the GPS was spewing Spanish, and giggled along with him. But as we missed our left hand turn one mile down the road, and my mom started getting nervous, I could understand how stressful it would be to have the GPS rattling off in a language you don’t understand. The GPS recalculated the route as my dad tried to figure out how to change it back to English. Meanwhile it told us “gira a la izquierda” a little ways down the road.
“Turn left Mom!” I told her, “Turn left here!”
She turned left, and as she did, I saw the headlights of a giant pickup truck about to T-bone our car.
I screamed. I thought we were going to die.
But we didn’t.
“PUT THE GPS BACK IN ENGLISH!” my mom insisted, pounding the steering wheel for emphasis. If I had been driving, I would have had the exact same reaction. In fact, when I was fifteen years old my dad was teaching me how to drive and he thought it was time for me to drive in downtown Montpelier. The “city”. I was pretty freaked out because I had only driven on the back roads of my small town. As we got into the city, I started to panic. My dad kept urging me on. We got to a traffic light where I had to take a left turn with a yield on green. He told me to go for it, while I was yelling at him that there was a car coming. “Just go!” he told me. “BUT THERE IS A CAR COMING!!” I yelled, probably also pounding on the steering wheel.
Anyway, my dad then silently attempted to change the GPS to English. We finally just shut off the sound and followed the pink line and written instructions. It took us over a mountain and through a state park, but we finally reached NY-22, the road that would take us to where my brother works.
We arrived in one piece and with all GPS and driving transgressions forgiven to my brother’s restaurant. I think he was surprised and I know he was happy to see us. My sister and her husband also came down from Vermont, so the whole family was there.
We ate delicious pub food and drank micro-brew beers. We talked to his boss, the owner of the restaurant. We watched him make jack and cokes. It was a slow night so around 11:00 we helped him close out the bar and then all went our separate ways, my brother and his girlfriend back to their apartment, my sister and brother-in-law back to Vermont and my parents and I to a motel down the road.
I didn’t figure out how to change the GPS back to English until two days later.