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Satellite Error

Written by Bill Brink on .

I do, in fact, have other topics on my mind than my inability to find my way around, but the last week cracked me up, so I'll tell you about it.

I have a GPS navigator in my car. It's led me across the country, from Annapolis, Md., to Los Angeles in the span of five days. It's found everything from beaches in Florida to obscure liquor stores in backwoods Vermont. His name is Neil, and he has an Australian accent. (The stock American accent, Sarah, was rude and inconsiderate when you didn't follow her exact instructions, closed roads or traffic be damned, so I turned her off).

Pittsburgh has Neil's head spinning.

Literally. The little blue car that represents me on the map will remain stationary while the surrounding world twirls in circles because the GPS has no idea where any roads are in Allegheny County. The roads are there, but the names are wrong and the exit numbers don't match.

I'm not from here. Did Pittsburgh recently go through a Big Dig of its own, re-numbering the exits and changing road names? And they're not off by just one, they're off by about 70. Exit 77 is now Exit 7. Route 376 is now some other three-digit combination of numbers.

I went to the FedEx shipping center to pick up a package that required a signature which the FedEx guy couldn't deliver because he always came while I was at work. The place is on Neville Island. I'm driving north with the river to my left. In 0.7 miles, I see, I'm supposed to turn left. 0.5 miles. 0.3. Nothing but river. I get to where Neil thinks I'm supposed to be and I'm in a train yard, surrounded by power transformers. Nothing but river on the other side. As Chandler Bing would say, "There's no more left left." The whole time I'm thinking of Clark Griswold in "European Vacation," circling the roundabout in London: "I CANNOT get left!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAgX6qlJEMc. Check it out. 

That same night, I'm going to Best Buy to pick up season six of Entourage. I know there's one on the south side, I've set foot in it. Plug in Best Buy, it finds one, figure that must be it, press go. I don't realize until I'm halfway there that this particular Best Buy is in the opposite direction and very far away. Apparently the one I want was built after my GPS was. Safe to say no Vinnie and Turtle that night.

Time for an update, but of course I lost the USB cord. Garmin's Web site says the cord costs $15, but like a good American I check Amazon first. They've got them for a cent. One penny. Brand new. I love capitalism. I doubt this will work, but more for the story than anything I order one. Next day on my bank statement: Amazon.com order, $.01. Actually $.01 plus four dollars shipping and handling. Worth it.

It arrives. I'm surprised. Plug it in, go to Garmin's Web site, download some drivers and such and ... updated maps cost $70. I hate capitalism. I've always had a map in my car but now I actually reference it. I feel ancient, like Captain Ahab pulling out an astrolabe, all the worse because I'm using it to find an intersection 1.4 miles away.

No complaining here, though; Pittsburgh is great. I promise, my next post will not feature me lost somewhere. What do you readers want to know about our experience? I know you're out there, 111 of you read the last post. Comment or e-mail us. 

Happy driving.    

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