In Gladys we trusted


It was a blis­ter­ingly dry hot day in Las Ve­gas as we packed our lug­gage into the hire car at the air­port. While our teenage son had some in­ter­est in the glitz of the US gambling cap­i­tal, it held lit­tle ap­peal for my hus­band and me. Our plan was to get out of there as quickly as pos­si­ble.

I breathed a sigh of re­lief as we ex­tri­cated the GPS from our lug­gage, plugged it in and en­tered the de­tails that would di­rect us with min­i­mum fuss to our ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion, the Grand Canyon. In the fore­front of my mind was a pre­vi­ous Euro­pean hol­i­day. My hus­band had in­sisted that all we needed to get us from the charm­ing Tus­can town of Lucca to the hire car de­pot in the heart of Paris were a few di­rec­tions off the in­ter­net and a map of Europe (Scale 1: 2,100,000). Need­less to say that ex­pe­di­tion ended in re­crim­i­na­tions and tears. I was con­fi­dent the GPS would trans­form our US hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ence; no more maps awk­wardly strewn across the car, stress­ful nav­i­ga­tional guess­work or in­evitable bick­er­ing over di­rec­tions gone wrong.

As we pulled out of the air­port carpark I handed over the nav­i­ga­tional reins to our GPS guide, af­fec­tion­ately known as Gladys, and re­laxed in the front pas­sen­ger seat. A half-hour later some­thing was not quite right. By our reck­on­ing we should have left Las Ve­gas be­hind but it was still clearly in our sights. Cracks had started to ap­pear in our hith­erto calm de­meanour, but con­fi­dent Gladys was in­sis­tent that we stay on her cho­sen route. Throw­ing cau­tion to the wind we con­tin­ued, past the ur­ban sprawl, ubiq­ui­tous fast food out­lets and never-end­ing shop­ping cen­tres.

An hour later, Gladys in­formed us that we had reached our des­ti­na­tion. Be­fore us lay a bar­ren work site lit­tered with rub­bish, not the mag­nif­i­cent nat­u­ral splen­dour of the Grand Canyon. Gladys had failed us mis­er­ably. In the depths of de­spair, a light-bulb mo­ment sud­denly oc­curred. In our rush to leave the air­port we had over­looked se­lect­ing the cor­rect US state in the GPS des­ti­na­tion ad­dress. Con­se­quently, Gladys had di­rected us to a new hous­ing es­tate called Grand Canyon Vil­lage in the outer sub­urbs of Las Ve­gas, Ne­vada, not the spec­tac­u­lar Grand Canyon in Ari­zona.

Gladys was for­given. With a mi­nor ad­just­ment to the GPS, off we drove to her dul­cet tones.

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