On the road

Reading Time: 3 minutes

My plans to come home changed and I ended up driving back to Birkenhead with my Dad. Being Good Friday, the trip took a butt-numbing six hours.
Boot lid of a car in Toddington Services
Along the way I treated the journey as a kind of anthropological laboratory. The first thing that really caught my eye was this set of vinyl stickers on the back of a car. It speaks for itself in many respects, but I found it particularly interesting that it celebrated a ‘surveillance’ life.

And with free wi-fi available at Stafford motorway services, there is no reason why the video couldn’t have garnered an audience by the time you’ve got home.

My Dad and I chewed the fat about people that I used to know and how car companies are screwing over consumers by putting authentication chips in water pumps and how the engineering of clutches have made them more expensive to replace with flywheels now have a springs in them holding two masses together rather than a solid chunk of metal.  But the driving was mostly mediated by the pings and calm female voice of the satellite navigation device.  Driving I quickly found that satellite navigation devices aren’t designed for direct sunlight (like you get in a car during sunny weather), surely a potential poster child for OLED displays in the future?

The cheaply made casing of the Chinese-made device (badged in the name of a German discount technology retail brand) was held on to the windscreen with a high-quality German-made plastic cradle. The quality of industrial design, fit and finish could not have been more different.

The satellite navigation device doesn’t augment your travel experience however, instead ‘she’ (my Dad gave the device a gender based on its voice and I suspect slightly temperamental nature) the oracle of travel ( in a similar way to Google being the oracle of knowledge). Progress up the M6 was slow so we decided to follow the device’s advice and take the A500. It was certainly a more scenic route but progress was slow and my right foot was starting to ache as I now drive so little.

So spying a sign for the M6/M56 I decided to deviate from the route and head back across Cheshire to try and make better time home. The sat nav kept trying to get me to do a u-turn. My Dad started to get more guilty, concerned that the sat nav would pipe up with ‘I told you so’ when we’d eventually meet a motorway full of traffic at a standstill. The traffic was actually ok, but talking to my Dad he felt like he had almost broken a bond of trust with the device. This humanisation of the device had also thrown up some other interesting ideas: it is cheaper to buy him  a new sat nav device than replace the battery and update the maps, but my Dad wants to fix it.

This is partly because I’m the dreamer, the ideas person in the family and he’s the maker. He built his own electric motor actuated Christmas lights, hand-built their first two motor homes and loves to tinker with stuff, when my Mum lets him. But its also partly because he feels a real emotional attachment to the disembodied electronic female voice in the device.