We are back after what felt like a short vacation. It was, in fact, just right. Like a good cup of coffee that wakes and rejuvenates you, yet leaves you thirsting for more. I hadn’t met the brother in three years (the bane of multi-national families) and I was like a happy child in anticipation for a good three months before the trip. We visited London, then drove on to Wales and finished up at Ireland. After a hectic day sight-seeing around London, I was quite glad of the opportunity to pile into the car and make for the famous English countryside. I do like cities for a spot of sight seeing, but give me a forest or the fields any day and I will be a happier camper.
The plan was to leave London in an orderly manner in two cars, one following the other, and drive to Wales, stopping in Oxford and Birmingham on the way. The brother set the destination on the TomTom, a name I found hilarious. Well, it should have been Tom-Jerry since we were playing catch with the brother’s car ahead of us most of the time, and he like Jerry the mouse was quick at turning at the right turnoffs, while we…well, read on.
The relations between UK and US maybe perfectly cordial, but they insist on doing everything opposite. The flushes are on the right, the toilet paper is on the left, toilets here have half hearted doors, while they go all the way in the UK. (brother’s blog here when he visited the USA)
More importantly it is left hand driving there while it is right hand driving in the US. This, in and of itself, was confusing enough without adding roundabouts, turnabouts, Tom-Toms and the lot.
The Tom-Tom did what most GPS-es do. It kept telling us what to do, and when we did not listen, stopped just short of sighing. One time, I did hear something that sounded like “Chee! Not there – Turn around when possible”
There is something else one must know about the Tom-Tom: It was either surprisingly good at Mathematics or gapingly poor at it. One minute, it would be saying , in quarter a mile, take left on the round-about, and third exit towards A-56648.
The next minute, it’d say, in 200 yards, take left on the round-about and fourth exit towards A-56648
Now, we are all for good-natured fun at our expense, but really! How was one to figure out whether:
(a) There was a round-about at 200 yards and another round-about at quarter of a mile.
(b) 200 yards is approximately equal to quarter of a mile.
(c) Since they don’t use miles, does it really mean kilometers?
(d) To take the fourth exit or the third exit to A-56648
New Delhi had a similar menace too and I remember writing about it 9 years ago here:
All highly muddlacious and confusional. The result being that the brother would be waiting at our rendezvous point twiddling his thumbs (read, running after his over-active toddler happy to be released from his carseat) when we’d tumble into the scene mildly cursing the Tom-Tom. The husband quite often blurred the lines between the Tom-Tom and his faithful wife who directed him with a firmer voice than the Tom-Tom. When asked who he was cursing, he’d use his charming smile and say, a tad too quickly for comfort, that it was the Tom-Tom.
The night we reached Birmingham, we could easily have reached Manchester, for there was a round-about that spindled out like a spider in seven or eight different directions. Having muddled up the previous round-about with just three turns and going away after some pretty deer in the countryside before turning around, we were really scared about this one. We managed though and generally tottered out towards our hotel like sheep lost for a day and a half on the pastures by the stile.
After the fifth muddle-tum-misseoso, the brother took things firmly in his hand, and sent his wife in our car to direct us. We’d have to say things were better, because we told her we will. But the truth was that the Tom-Tom just upped its ante when it realized that it had another person to misdirect. I don’t know whether I really trust folks when they say that inanimate objects have no feelings. I could not shake off the feeling that the Tom-Tom sat up with glee at the additional person in the car and laughed its way through the countryside. One time, the b’s wife said, “I am absolutely sure – you turn here” and then, the Tom-Tom chuckled and said, “Chuckle Chuckle Grin Grin, Turn around when possible and take right on the roundabout and fourth exit.”
Really, what is wrong with good old fashioned signals I ask you. Why can’t you have crossroads that say, Turn Right on signal to go to Birmingham and Left to go to London? Why have people go merrily round and round a roundabout? Not that it got us in anyway because we had all the time in the world. We were driving through the countryside with breath-taking views and any sense of purpose seemed wasted. Miles and miles of farmland with sheep and lambs spotting the hills. Any time, we took a wrong turn, we simply released some giggles from our giggle pots and carried on.
Till the last day when we had a ferry to catch, but that is an another blog for another day.