Ya Gotta Believe

You Gotta Believe

Learning to use a GPS is a lesson in faith. Let me tell you some stories.

On Ash Wednesday, I was scheduled to take a service in Trumbull, about 50 miles from Hartford, where I am in temporary residence doing some research. I’d never been to Trumbull before from anywhere, so I brought up all the available technological resources. First I looked it up on google map on my computer and then I programmed the GPS with the relevant address. google said, “Take Interstate 91 southeast” and that looked like a sensible approach, so I got in my car and headed toward an intersection where the Interstate is to the right. GPS said, “Turn left.”

Who do you believe? I had GPS with me and not the google printout, so I said, “OK, let’s try it.” A left turn brought me to I-84 heading west and I thought, “Where are you taking me?” We zoomed along on the Interstate for a while and then GPS told me to take an exit. Why here? No time to look at a map to see what’s happening; I did as I was told. We made our way up hill and down dale through various exurban areas of Connecticut and then – got back on the Interstate we had left only fifteen minutes earlier! Eventually we exited again, took some of the narrowest and windingest streets I’ve seen in a while – and arrived in good time at the church to which I was going. Faith triumphs again!

Later I discovered that the GPS was programmed for the shortest route rather than the fastest. Clearly there was an area where the Interstate took the less direct route. Coming back, I got on I-84 but ignored its advice to get off as before. The estimated time of arrival at the Cathedral immediately dropped by ten minutes!

Earlier that day I had set out for the Connecticut State Library, about .6 miles from my temporary residence at the Cathedral. I decided to walk, but not being familiar with the area, to take my GPS for guidance. We walked along for awhile and came to Bushnell Park, a great green area in the middle of Hartford. Traffic flows around the park but there are paved walkways across and I could see the State Library on the other side. The GPS, of course, wanted me to go around but I saw no reason to follow its advice and set off straight across. As I watched the GPS screen, I was delighted to see the little car symbol that shows one’s location move sedately across the green, and I expected the voice of the GPS to cry out at any minute, “What are you doing?!”

One more story. On Friday I went to Manhattan for a special program at Episcopal Church headquarters in mid-town. I knew the way and steadfastly ignored the GPS advice to get off the Eastside Drive (aka FDR Drive) and go down town on an avenue. Shorter maybe, but not faster! (I have now reprogrammed for fastest.) Coming back, however, I wanted advice as to the best entrance to the FDR Dr. There are far fewer entrances than exits and I can never remember where they are. The GPS advised 62nd Street and I made the turn and headed for the Drive. “In point two miles”, said the GPS, “enter F D R Doctor and turn left”!)

My question is, “If the GPS can’t tell a Drive from a Doctor, how does it tell a Street from a Saint? When I have time, I intend to ask it to take me to the Episcopal Office at the Yale Divinity School which is located on “St. Ronan St.” and see what it makes of that!

Meanwhile, I have written a hymn for the GPS to be sung to Cwm Rhondda:

Guide me, O thou GPS;
Lacking your omniscient sight,
I am lost but you have knowledge,
Guide me with your satellite.
Great Computer, Great Computer,
Guide me with your satellite!

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