The Other Woman

I resist technology. My family jokes that I can’t turn on the television but that’s not true. What is true is that I like some hi-tech advances and refuse to go along with others. I’ve stopped calling 411 and now use Google; but I still insist on looking out the window instead of using a weather app. In France, last summer, Mark reserved a rent a car with GPS. I hated the sound of the woman’s voice. She kept barking out orders and interrupting every conversation.

“Can’t you turn that thing off?” I asked. “No, we need it,” Mark insisted. “No we don’t. She’s always wrong.” “That’s ridiculous.”

Call me stupid or old-fashioned but I wanted to get us where we were going. I wanted the challenge. I get that going it on our own wasn’t imperative, and could be construed as unnecessary as someone insisting on memorizing a cell phone number instead of adding it to contacts. But getting lost and finding our way, I claimed, was part of the journey, wasn’t it?

Mark likes to call the shots, do things his way. It’s difficult for him to accept influence from me; in life and in the car. So when the GPS told him to take a left and I said to take a right, he listened to the GPS, defending the voice from the navigation system with vigor.

“I can’t believe how you’re sticking up for this thing,” I said pointing at the dashboard. “It’s like there’s another woman in our car.” The GPS voice droned on. “Marguerite. That’s what I’ll call her.” “Call who?” Mark asked.

Before long, we were lost. I know you must be thinking that’s not possible. But that’s the thing about technology, if the program or setting is off, if the computer is inadvertently told to do the wrong thing, you’re going to end up with a problem. So, we got lost. Marguerite had us going in circles.

“I told you to take a right,” I said. “You have to use your head and common sense. You can’t follow blindly. Bad things happen when people follow blindly. Look what happened during World War II.” “Don’t you think that’s a bit dramatic?”

Eventually, with my help, we found our way to the highway. We zoomed on, parallel to the sea, Mark going way too fast. Instead of enjoying the beautiful flowers and trees along the roadway, I sat stiff and kept imagining my funeral, wondering if the upcoming tunnel was like the one Princess Diana died in.

“You’re going too fast. Please slow down.” “I’m going 110 kilometers. Everyone in France drives this way.” “Please slow down.”

When you sit in the passenger seat, you give up control. I had flashbacks of the time our rent a car soared over a cliff in Colorado; Mark, me, and four of our children inside. The car landed on a boulder, perched like a bird in its nest, instead of rolling and rolling, but it was totaled; a huge crack in the windshield where my bare foot had landed. I’d tried to control the situation, stop the car from going over the cliff, by stepping involuntarily on imaginary brakes. Remarkably, other than my sprained ankle, we were all fine. (Although my son, Richard claims he bit his tongue.)

Mark slowed down and for a few minutes I was able to relax. He was okay when a Lamborghini sped past us but lost it when a Fiat whizzed by. Ultimately, we got where we were going.

“Marguerite did a good job,” Mark said pulling up to our hotel. “She got us here.” “You’ve got to be kidding. I got us here.” “You’re jealous! I can’t believe you’re jealous of the GPS voice,” he laughed. And if I am honest, I was. I wanted him to listen to me. But instead I said, “That’s ludicrous.” “She does have a lovely voice,” Mark instigated. “Well then you can have dinner with her,” I said half-kidding, half-hurt. “She’s not perfect,” Mark said. “She doesn’t have your legs.” “She’s a controlling, manipulative, bitch who always thinks she’s right. She’s always telling us what to do and where to go.” “But when I drive the wrong way, she doesn’t yell at me. She nicely helps me find the right way.”

We just bought a Tesla. It has an app that lets you change the temperature in the car from your cell phone. It’s meant to be a helpful feature, one that allows you to warm up your car while you wait in your house on a freezing cold day. But I’m miserable about it. I envision Mark sitting behind his desk, at his office, changing the temperature in our car from his cell phone while I’m driving and there’s no one even in the passenger seat.