Before I had the navigator, I didn't really have an arrival time in mind. We'd get there when we got there. No urgency. But now there's pressure. I feel like a failure when the arrival time is pushed back. I hurry my kids through the 7-Eleven. If there's a line, I try to convince them that they don't really want those M&M's.

The navigator is changing the traveling experience for me, and I'm not sure it's always for the better. It's a safe feeling; I'm never really lost. If I listen to her, eventually I'll end up where I want to be. But security comes with trade-offs.

I don't notice landmarks as much as I used to. I live in a part of the country where folks give you directions like "Turn at that old place where they sell the doghouses." I'd scan the road until I saw those doghouses. Squat red ones, tall, roomy ones—they lit my imagination every time, and I could just picture lazy dogs savoring the shade from the Carolina sun. The guy who sold the doghouses sat on a bowed picnic bench. He waved when I drove past, one of those slow waves where his hand is in the air a little longer than strictly necessary. But now my eye is on the navigator. I watch that blue triangle follow the road. When the navigator says "turn," I turn. If someone's selling doghouses, I don't know about it.

Here's the paradox of progress. I want the technology. I'm not giving up my GPS navigator now that I know how neatly it gets me back on track. But I also recognize what is lost. Not just with the navigator, but with anything that makes our lives a little easier, distances us a bit more from what's real and concrete. I didn't grow up milking my family's own cows the way my husband did. And, really, I wouldn't choose to. I never had to go out in the rain and milk the cow. But I also never sent warm milk in a graceful white arc into the open, waiting mouth of a kitten. That's the price; that's the deal.

When I think back to that restaurant in France, I can't recall its name. I'm not sure what I ate. I'm not even completely positive that the village was Cabriès. But I remember our guide pedaling furiously, leading us past houses with shutters bleached from the sun. I remember the way, twisting out of his seat, he glanced back to make sure we were still with him. What I remember most clearly is the brief connection we had with him, the kindness that we never would have found if we hadn't first gotten lost.

Jody Mace blogs at and is working on a comic novel for kids.


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