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Living dangerously: I drove 360 miles today without using Google Maps

No Waze No Way

google maps on dash in car
Image: Unsplash

At 5:45 AM this morning I stumbled out into the parking lot and straight into a thin spider web that had been formed overnight between my car and the vehicle parked next to mine. As I did the spider web dance in the pitch black of the parking lot, my phone stayed in my pocket as I started to think about my route 180 miles north. I did not check Google Maps before the key turned.

It would be an hour in the car before I would hit a metro area where rush hour would be a concern. Even though Google Maps now has augmented reality features on its Pixel phones, at the first stop light my phone stayed in my pocket. Perhaps there was an accident. There is always construction. Google Maps stayed unchecked. The Gods either chortled or scoffed at this decision.

As Google I/O rolled out yesterday, it was clear we no longer live in an age of self-sufficiency. We need our phones to do the thinking for us, to manage our lives, to save us the undeniable stress of having to do math.

For all that the offering of so-called time-saving apps has brought us, Google Maps has always been the most useful tool in our phones by far. Seeing that red line on your route, then plotting an alternate route has saved time and probably lives. But today, today I shook my fist at Odin and rode Thor’s lightning into uncertainty.

Google Maps has an Incognito Mode now, but I was already incognito. Well, sort of. Maps would likely be tracking my movements as I have location turned on for that app, but without checking it, my location would just be a cat trapped in a box. Is the cat dead? Will I get delayed by an accident at the I-4 interchange? Who the hell knows.

You may ask how in the hell I knew where I was going without checking Google Maps

Well, I knew the general location, I had been there once before and could probably find it again without plugging the address into my phone. And I did. I only turned down one wrong side street, turned around and found the right street (it was the second right turn off the main road, not the first).

With 180 miles in the books, standing outside a Love’s truck stop with the fresh scent of spilled gasoline on my Adidas’, I nearly checked the Google Maps app to track any obstacles on my path back. I left my phone in my pocket.

Even after mindlessly taking a highway split and getting on the turnpike, then having to turn around twice to get back on the highway, I never once thought to check the Maps app. I knew that I had to go south (it was a 360-mile round trip) and that’s the direction I headed. I know south. Can this generation of people tethered to their phones point south if asked, without having to check their phones? We’ll probably never know.

Somehow, against all odds that have been stacked against us by reliance on our smartphones, I made it back home. There were no accidents and construction and merge delays were minimal. There were no alternate routes needed, no frustration at the dark red line on the map. It simply didn’t exist because I never looked for it.

Is this a new paradigm of survival or an outlier? Time shall tell as our phones command even more of the minutia of our lives, leaving our survival skills in the past, an ancient way of living lost to time and technology.

When was the last time you took a trip into the unknown without the help of a maps app? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Writing about consumer technology, social media and the deep layers of psychological torture endured by all of it. The world is changing, but that doesn't mean we can't be cynical about it. It's not all sunshine and roses in Silicon Valley. It's self loathing, pretentiousness and machines that squeeze juice for you. Also, a strong affinity for toasters.Follow on Twitter @cebsilver for them jokes. Chaotic neutral. Pitches to cebsilver@gmail.com

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