Traveling down the road in my new-to-me-dually diesel Ford F350 truck requires adventurousness and ballsiness. I’m used to a manual transmission, compact cars with Roadrunner horns. (Meep, meep!) The two do not compare for maneuverability, power, or gas mileage. I’ve named my truck “The Beast” because he eats up space on the road like a monster.
The Beast and I are on a road trip together, alone. He prefers long drives on flat areas, the entire expanse of a lane, and filling up every four hours or so on the Interstate. I like getting from point A to point B without spending thousands of dollars. We don’t have much in common.
Like every road trip, I plan out most of my stops for efficiency. Most of the time, Google maps is helpful and insightful. “This is the fastest route, no toll roads, no construction, and beautiful scenery. Let’s go!”
On rare occasions, I have disagreed and plotted out a different road. Mostly, I do not argue with Google, though. Or at least, I hadn’t until this last trip from Phoenix, AZ to Bakersfield, CA. The Beast and I had found a comfortable compromise to his great size and my appreciation for tiny vehicles. That’s when Google Maps spoke up.
“This will make your trip shorter — would you like to go on an explore?”
Um, sure, Google. I trust you. Probably. Google and I have an adversarial relationship at best. Google Assistant irritates me enough that I’ve disabled it thoroughly, but it still asks me, “How can I help you?” at ridiculous times when my phone screen is turned off and placed away from me. I’ve never found a good time to discuss its invasive habits.
Instead of taking the straight shot of 99, Google plotted a long trip over a big mountain with plenty of curves, rain, and slow traffic. The Beast was game at first — he has cruise control and likes to chase small cars like a bad dog chasing kittens. I, however, boggled at the sheer nothingness that our two-lane road had become.
We passed through small towns at painfully slow 35 mph speeds. We slogged up hills and traversed back roads following every Penske moving truck on the planet. People driving RVs side-eyed me as I passed them, traveling 80 mph so I could stop at some point that night. Two hours in, I started feeling concerned as “Where Am I?” played on the radio. We were still three hours from Bakersfield, and even The Beast was showing some hesitation for our route.
“Google Assistant, where are we?” I inquired as we drove past fields and trailer parks.
“No, really. Where are we, Google?” I grumbled to my phone.
I raised my voice and demanded, “Seriously, Google Assistant. Now is the time to speak up. Where in the hell are we???”
If ever there were a time for Google to be helpful, it would have been in that moment. I’d hurt Google Assistant’s feelings over the months, telling it to shut up, leave me alone, and go away.
The Beast and I wandered on, and finally, Google Maps spoke up, “Exit here! HERE. HERE!!!”
We finally arrived at our hotel destination, but I never did find out where we were. Google Assistant won’t tell me.