One thing about the prevalence of phones that are smart is that they’ve created people that are dumb.
Okay, maybe just me.
Regardless, I moved to NYC in July of 2014–over a year and a half ago–and I still don’t know my way around. I use GPS almost every time I drive. Now, granted, I don’t drive very much. Public transportation here is the the best in the world, and certainly more convenient than trying to find either of the two available parking spaces in Manhattan at any one time. And, I’m not alone. My wife (Editor’s note: yes, I got married since my last blog. May have forgotten to mention that.) regularly grabs her Droid Turbo for navigation when either her or I get behind the wheel, and she’s a friggin’ NYC tour guide.
I know quite a few grizzled city veterans that always use their smartphones to get around, so it seems to be the norm. But what the hell did everyone do before GPS? My guess: actually learn the city. When you’re forced to look at a map several dozens of times and make lots and lots of mistakes, any city eventually becomes imprinted in your mind. That never happens when you lean on navigation.
So, last night, Evi and I hopped in the car to pick up my nephew Bo, who’s staying in Brooklyn for a few days, and of course we had to fire up Google Maps to get there. Now, let me go ahead and mention that I’d already screwed up. Bo had texted me the address, but when Evi started the navigation without asking me anything I just assumed I had already given her that information. However, she only knew the area he was in so she just entered “Dumbo” (Down Under Manhattan Bridge, a trendy area in Brooklyn; I have no idea what the “O” is for.).
So, when we got near Bo’s location, she called him to get specific directions. Bo–assuming we had the address–just told her the nearest cross street and said he’d be “right outside the tallest building”. Evi, who speaks with a strong Russian accent, and Bo, who’s terrible with directions, then went on this five minute Abbott & Costello routine that involved a lot of back and forth and confusion that had me driving around the same gridlocked block several times, shaking my head. Marriage has taught me patience, but in my mind, I was definitely thinking that these two would never figure this shit out, and I should just grab the phone and take over. What the hell are these two DOING, I thought. If I was in charge of this we’d already–
“What do you mean Joe already has the address?!?” I heard Evi say to Bo.
Yeah, so, uh, I got into some trouble there. Another thing marriage has taught me is that you’re going to step into some dog shit sometimes, and it’s best to just clean it up and move on. Which is what we did. Bo hopped in the car and Evi put “Brighton Beach” into her phone and off we went.
Now, my wife adores my nephew, so as soon as he was in the car they started a huge discussion about how their lives were going, leaving me to figure out how the hell to get out of DUMBO. This time, I guess I was in charge.
So it should be no surprise that we went around the same block four times.
This is NOT an exaggeration. Evi and Bo were only paying attention to each other, and I was only focused on trying to do exactly what the Google bitch was saying. At some point Bo said, “Uh, didn’t we already go down this street?”
Yes, we did. Apparently I was constantly getting on the wrong onramp for a highway, so it was constantly having me get off the next exit and looping around right by his building. FOUR GODDAMN TIMES. If I ever hear the words “turn left on Sand Street” again, I will impale myself.
We did eventually figure things out, and–hey, what the hell–made it to our destination. Brighton Beach is the area of Brooklyn where many Russians settled, and is still very much Russian. We found a great little diner named Ocean View Cafe, which looked like a greasy spoon but actually served fantastic food.
Dinner was delicious. According to Evi, it was what Russians consider “cheap” food, but neither me nor my wallet detected anything cheap about it. Okay, I guess when a dinner for three only comes to $70 and includes caviar, it can be considered, well, frugal.
At one point during dinner, my nephew started messing with me by asking Evi, “So hey, what’s it like hanging out with a younger, hotter version of your husband?” Evi of course immediately came to my defense.
“I would never date you, Bo. I don’t like guys who are handsome, and stylish, and young, and in shape…”
Eventually, we took Bo home. A few minutes after I dropped him off, he called me frantically and said, “Uncle Joe, I’m still wearing your coat!”
“Shit, okay, I’ll turn around.”
I had to make a left on Sand Street.