Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Google Maps Sucks at Finding Gas Stations

Yesterday, when I got in my car to come home, there was a loud *Beep!* followed by a blinking light on my gas gauge.  Wouldn’t you know, my car was running out of gas.

Now, if I still had my old car, this would have been major cause for alarm.  I would have taken myself straight to the gas station on campus, even though it’s hecka on the other side of campus and would have taken like 20 minutes round trip.

But, now I drive a Prius.  I get like 50 miles to the gallon on this thing.  I think to myself, “Well, it’s probably only like 15 miles or something to get down the peninsula.  I can totally make it!”  And then I start driving home.

My route home from Stanford takes me down the 280 corridor on the peninsula, which, in case you haven’t been there, is like randomly driving through a rural part of the Bay Area.  Except that the traffic is bumper-to-bumper the whole way.  So there I am, sitting in my usual traffic jam, listening to my usual music, watching that light flash on my gas gauge.  Then, panic and paranoia set in.  What if I don’t actually have another 50 miles before I run out of gas?  I’m in the middle of nowhere 280!  They don’t even have gas stations on this road!  I better turn off the heater to save gas!

So I turn off the heater, which only serves to make my paranoia worse.  I don’t do well in the cold.  After a couple more miles have gone by, I finally break down and decide that I had better damn well find a gas station before my Prius runs out of gas and I have to sit on the side of the road and call AAA.  Because that will just ruin my night.  (Also, I’m pretty sure you get the “Loser of the Year” award if your hybrid runs out of gas.)

But, as usual, technology will save me!  I pull out my handy Nexus One and turn on the Google Maps app.  In all its glorious smart-phone-ness, its internal GPS knows precisely where I am.  (Every time I use my phone to do anything other than text or make calls, I feel like I’m a member of the secret adult club.  You know, the one where you clean your house up every night and carry around a sweet-ass phone that tells your children bedtime stories and feeds your dog.)

My phone has a sweet function where you can do voice search, which is awesome when one is in a situation like I am, where you really can’t be typing “gas station” into the search bar because at any moment, traffic might start moving again and you’ll look like a total loser.  So I do my voice search for “gas station” and the machine whirs away, finding me some saving petroleum grace.  And, lo and behold, there’s a gas station not too far away from where I am.  Sweet!  I hit “navigate” and start following my phone’s directions.

Soon, I’m driving down this random road that’s mostly deserted, because nobody in their right mind ever gets off this part of the 280 to try to find a gas station.  No, normal people actually go down past the 85, where civilization starts again.  But not me.  I’m following my phone to what promises to be a sweet, hidden gas station.

After a while, I start to notice that I’m not really driving on surface streets anymore.  Instead, I’ve entered some random neighborhood full of what I’m sure are ridiculously rich people.  This strikes me as odd, because how could there be a gas station in somebody’s yard?  But I continue to follow my navigation partially because she sounds so authoritative, and partially because I’m terrified that if I try to turn around, then I’ll run out of gas and then I’ll be stranded in some serial killer’s driveway.  To quell my panic, I think to myself, “It’s ok.  Google Maps just knows some sweet shortcut, that’s all.”

So, I continue to drive.  Left and right, I’m so far in this neighborhood now that there’s no telling how far away the main road is anymore.  Plus, it’s dark, so it’s not like I can even read the street signs.  But still, Google Maps promises me I’m getting close to my gas station.  I hold on to my last shreds of hope.

Then, all at once, the navigator announces, “You have arrived.”  I stop.  I’ve arrived, haven’t I?  I look around.  Where the fuck is the gas station, Google Maps?!  This isn’t a gas station!  It’s some serial killer’s driveway!  And I’m sitting in a Prius without the heater on because I’m running out of gas, and god damn it if I die out here they’ll never find my body!

I end up tossing my phone on the passenger seat in disgust, and using my own personal internal GPS system to find my way out of this neighborhood.  (I actually have a sweet sense of direction.  Scott would be hopelessly lost if it weren’t for me.)  I end up at a different entrance to the neighborhood than I came in, and I can see an expressway.  My intuition is telling me there must be a gas station somewhere along this road.  Lo, and behold, there it is, way over on the left on some random frontage road.  I screech across a lane of traffic to exit the expressway, and find myself dumped onto a random road that runs diagonal to the expressway.  Diagonal roads produce intersections that don’t make any damn sense.  I get all flustered and end up going straight when I should have turned left, and to get to the gas station I end up having to make some really fantastic maneuvers that I’m pretty sure were illegal.  But, I make it to the gas station alive.

So, here’s what I learned:

1.  Google Maps sucks at finding gas stations.  It’s great at other things.  But apparently “gas station” is Google Maps-speak for “serial killer’s driveway.”

2.  I totally could have made it to the gas station by my normal exit.  My 50 mpg Prius does not mess around.

3.  That random part of the peninsula is freaking scary and you should never drive around there under any circumstances.

4.  Turning off the heater probably doesn’t save you any gas.  Instead, it makes you paranoid and cranky.

There you have it, folks.  Google Maps: not quite as awesome as I thought it was.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holidays Make Me Verklempt

Every time there is a holiday, I get all sentimental like a total idiot.  It can be the most major or the most inconsequential of days, I still get all verklempt.

Independence Day: Oh, my god!  I love America SO MUCH!
Labor Day/Memorial Day/Veteran's Day: Oh, my god! I love the troops SO MUCH!  I am SO PROUD of our troops!
Earth Day/Arbor Day: Oh, my god!  I love the Earth SO MUCH!  Let's all save the Earth!
Valentine's Day: Oh, my god!  I love Scott SO MUCH!
Election Day: Oh, my god!  I love America SO MUCH!

And on and on.  You can imagine, then, how rough the time between Halloween and New Year's is for me.  It's a crazy emotional roller coaster ride between total euphoria (at the fact that the holidays are awesome) and total hysterics (at the fact that the holidays are awesome.)  I get teary-eyed when sentimental holiday commercials come on (and don't even get me started about It's a Wonderful Life.)  I walk around in a total haze of good will towards my fellow men.  And if I should ever see somebody acting like a crazy person because of the holidays, I think, "Oh, how sad.  They must have forgotten how AWESOME the holidays are!"

As an example, last night I went to pick up pizza for myself and my friends.  Our pizzas were still cooking, so I had to wait a few minutes.  Thankfully, they have a television, and thankfully, Beauty and the Beast was on.  As a child raised in the 90's, that movie embodies my childhood experience.  Maybe seeing that movie primed my emotional response.  I'm not sure.  All I know is that after I paid, I wished the cashier "Happy Thanksgiving!" and found the words sticking in my throat and that familiar sting behind my eyes.  As I walked into the parking lot, that self-critical part of me reared up: You idiot!  You don't even know that guy!  Why should you care if he has a happy Thanksgiving!  But then, the compassionate, emotional part of myself answered back: Because, Thanksgiving is an awesome holiday!  And everyone has something to be thankful for!  And I hope that guy can celebrate with his family and friends!

And so I say to everyone: Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Remember what you have in this life to be grateful for.  Even if it's just that the sun came up again today.

Now, where are the tissues?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Half Day

Today, in celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, our director gave us a half day off.  I only had to work until noon, and even at that I didn't have much to do.

So, had lunch with Scott, then took my fantastic little dachshund, Ringo, to the pet store to see about getting a harness.  He really likes to be out in front when we are walking, and it pulls on his collar, which I am afraid will one day damage his trachea.

Side note: I worry about this dog like some people worry about their children.  Except that Ringo will never have to leave my care, muahahahaha.

Because Ringo is the cutest dog that ever lived, people love him every where we go.  The pet store is certainly no exception, and the lady gave Ringo cookies and now he wants to live there.  She helped me find a harness that both fit him and looked adorable on him.  When he wears it he looks like he's all suited up for work.  All he needs is a doggy briefcase and a hat.

Then Ringo and I came home and took a nice long nap on the couch.  The beautiful thing about my new job is that when I have a day off like this, I can come home and take a nap just because I want to.  Not because I'm so physically exhausted that I literally can't stand up anymore.  I think that we should all be allowed to take naps every afternoon.  Think about it.  We'd all be way less cranky and there would be less war.  Anything that involves less war I am an advocate of.

Now, I'm awake, and I thought to myself, What do I want to do?  This is a question I don't often get to ask myself, and recently, when I've been asking it, I'm finding it difficult to come up with an answer.

So, I decided to start blogging again.  I have goals in mind for the blogging, of course.  But I've found in my life that if I tell other people about my personal goals then I get to feeling all guilty if I don't meet them.  It's like the goal doesn't become about me, it's about the people I've told about it.  And then I get all self-defeating and go into this "If I can't even do this then I will never do anything worthwhile ever again" spiral.  So not with the blog.  I'ma keep my goals to myself for once, thank you very much.  And goddamnit, I like it this way!