All my electronic gadgets give

All my electronic gadgets give me a veneer of competency: the GPS, for example, can get me to a location faster, sometimes, than someone who — unlike me — can actually find their way out of a paper bag by themselves. And, if my GPS runs out of batteries (like it did yesterday morning), I can always call my destination on my battery-mounted speakerphone, and have the concierge talk me in. And, if that doesn’t work, I can open up my laptop, get online with the wireless connection, and use Yahoo Driving Directions.

Like a new English speaker who has to translate everything heard into their own language in their head before understanding, though, the “digital bubble” I’m in leads to a whole lot of befuddlement. Yesterday, I left Duane Reade after purchasing new batteries for my GPS, got back into my nondescript rental car, and turned the key, only to find it didn’t work. Suddenly, I realized: I was in the wrong car! I grabbed my stuff, scrambled out, and walked away, only to realize that I now had one extra bag!

I slung the extra bag back into the strange car (I hope it was the right one!) and scurried away, trying to look harmlessly absent-minded. Though the number of reactionary, shoot-first-ask-questions-later bravos driving gray Hyundais is probably pretty small, so I don’t imagine I was in much danger.

I plugged the fresh batteries into my GPS, got my bearings from a computer, and drove away.

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