Recently I took a brief sojourn to my favorite place in Virginia. I've been there many times, so the route is well established in my brain. This time, however, I was driving, and my car has one of those nifty GPS (global positioning system) devices to help you get where you're going.
To see how accurate the gadget was I programmed where I was going and pushed the start button as soon as we exited the Cape May-Lewes Ferry in Lewes, Del.
All went well for a while, and then I must have taken a turn that the voice felt was wrong. The voice, let me call it "GuyDance" for the want of a better term, seemed to stop the motoring assistance.
I didn't change the ultimate destination but restarted it mid-ride. Then, as if to get back at me for ignoring its directions, it persisted in ordering me to "In 600 meters, make a legal U-turn." (I'm metric minded). Every 600 meters, I kept on driving, and every time I'd pass the mark, the voice would return.
After about 15 kilometers, I got tired of all that advice and shut it off. Amazingly, I arrived at my destination on time and without help from GuyDance.
It's the second brush I've had with it. The first time it took me to the wrong hotel by the Philadelphia International Airport, almost causing heart failure when I was told they didn't have my reservation. Only after the clerk looked at the reservation I presented did he say it was the same chain, but the one in Ridley Park, not here. I was boiling mad, but got over it quickly.
Oh, for the days of a paper map and printed directions.
What's the chief difference between GuyDance and a human navigator? GuyDance never says, "Well, if you'd have listened to me in the first place, we wouldn’t be here now" or "I told you so!"
Now to another curse of the modern age: the U.S. Postal Service's ZIP (Zone Improvement Plan) Code. Most of us have gotten used to our ZIP Code. It got a bit complicated when the powers that be added four extra digits, but for now, we'll zero in on the first five digits.
If the Postal Service had any idea how it has jumbled people's ideas of location, they would have altered it somewhat. But we're stuck with it, and I simply feel regret for those who, let's say, bought a retirement home in North Cape May, thinking they were actually owning real estate in Cape May.
To the Postal Service, not only is Cape May 08204, so is North Cape May, which is Lower Township.
It's no better in Court House, with its 08210 ZIP Code. As I was proofing an advertisement for the Dennis Township Public School, I noticed the address was on Hagan Road in Cape May Court House, 08210.
Similarly, the Bishop McHugh Regional Catholic School's advertisement for its open house duly noted its address as being on Route 9 North, Cape May Court House 08210. Both schools are in Dennis Township, but a poor soul who was scouring the roads in Court House looking for either one would have a long journey.
Colleges, which send the Herald updates on local students who make the Dean's List and other achievements, often list hometowns solely by ZIP Code. Thus, young people listed as from Woodbine (08270) could reside in a huge portion of northern Cape May County served by the letter carriers from Woodbine's Post Office, and never have the pleasure of living in the borough's confines.
People in Green Creek who are served by Court House (08210) letter carriers could well suffer from split address personality. After all, Green Creek has its very own ZIP Code, 08219. It's no different for those in Whitesboro (08252) who opt to have their mail delivered instead of getting it from the post office.
After Goshen's (08218) Post Office closed, patrons’ mail was shunted to Dennisville (08214). However, they can still choose to have mail delivered from Court House (08210).
Do you see how confusing this can get for a direction-challenged individual, or worse, a stupid GPS device that may have suffered from being trapped too long in a hot vehicle?
For those suffering from ZIP-mania (a common ailment for which there is no known cure), or who have no idea where they live, the County of Cape May prints a small official county directory.
On two pages near the back, 76-77 in the 2018 version, the latest to hit the street, are 63 locations in the county with appropriate ZIP Codes. How Somers Point (08244) snuck in there I have no idea, perhaps some poor person in Cape May County has mail delivered from that Atlantic County Post Office.
Those puzzling about their home's location ZIP Code can find it there listed in alphabetical order from Avalon (08202) to Woodbine (08270) and all parts in between.
If you want to fry the motherboard of your GPS, enter them all and watch it retaliate as only an electronic device can do. Imagine the driverless cars of the future when you say "Take me to 08210." Be prepared for one long ride.