My friend GyPSy Rose
Thank you to everyone who came out to the Cleveland Park library on a rainy afternoon yesterday and made it such a grand success. And I hope to see more of you at the SW Anchor library in Baltimore this afternoon.
As I mentioned, I have a travelling companion. She is small and dark, a little square, and hard, if delicate. Her name is GyPSy Rose.
Gypsy is a most patient companion, always willing to compensate for my quirks and mistakes by a nearly inaudible sigh and the comment, “Recalculating.” When I fail, despite her increasingly urgent entreaties, to Turn Right at the correct place, she neither criticizes nor comments, merely summoning her thoughts to provide me with an alternative.
Not that Gypsy Rose is without quirks of her own. I learned quickly that if she says nothing, for miles at a time, she is neither sulking nor broken, but merely wishes me to drive on the same road that she has provided, endlessly. This is one companion who only speaks when she has something to say, and her conversation is always to the point.
“In point two miles, turn right,” she suggests, then more urgently, “Turn right!” And if I fail to fling the car across four crowded lanes to obey, she gives her little sigh, recalculates, and restores me to order.
Nonetheless—and I say this out of her earshot—I am not fully appreciative of the skills of the GPS. I am a lover of maps. Maps speak to me in a wider vocabulary than that of my small square friend. I look at a piece of green against an uneven border of blue, decorated with a tracery of red and black lines, and I know that this is a stretch of coastland, and see that I am following the route of traders through the towns of fishermen and sea-side dwellers. A map gives a sense of the journey, shows a chunk of countryside, suggests the terrain by its relative straightness or windings, speaks of unseen obstacles or attractions in the circuitous nature of its detours. A map is a thing to be unfolded and draped across the top of a car hood, a picnic table, a horse’s pack, a log. A map tells me when I draw near towns with names that roll off the tongue:Mamaroneck and Stamford, New Rochelle and Chappaqua.
Gypsy is not good with the big picture. Her voice, her palm-sized screen, and her limited mentality present the world in tiny, unrelated segments. “In five point five miles, exit right” followed by “turn left, then right” tells me nothing about how near I am to the shore, how the highway skirts a river with historical echoes to its name. I get from there to here with no sense of where I have actually travelled, what sort of land or history lay within those miles.
I get there, but her companionship is unfulfilling.