Madge is a back-seat driver who rides up front and she doesn’t give a hoot in hades whether I am one of those male drivers who won’t ask for directions. She’ll tell me where to go whether I like it or not.
Madge is the voice on our GPS, one of those devices that guide you straight to your motel on vacation or locate your Aunt Mildred’s house deep inside some confusing housing development where the homes are all identical.
A GPS tells where you are in the world within a few feet. It not only shows on its screen which routes to follow but it has a voice – in this case, Madge. She tells you things like “Turn right onto Fifth Street in two miles.” Then she shows a picture of the turn with an arrow pointing to the right.
These gadgets come with distinctive voices that almost make them a member of the family – and in the case of Madge, a bossy member of the family.
We named her Madge for Magellan, one of many marvelous brands of GPS. But Madge is not as warm, fuzzy or sexy as I am told some of the other GPS voices are. Some are so friendly that the human drivers almost fall in love with them.
Not in our case. Madge is blunt, dominant and borderline angry if you misunderstand her and make the wrong turn. “Take a legal U turn as soon as you can!” she commands with a slight smell of panic in her voice.
I have never seen her, of course, but a person gets an impression of what she looks like. My guess is that she is in her late 50s, she’s single and she’s glad of it. She drinks scotch on the rocks and smokes two packs a day. She is secure inside her own skin. She is competent, she knows it and she won’t take any guff off man or beast.
However, she does freak out on occasion. We were recently trying to navigate Portland’s diabolical network of wantonly arranged freeways. We missed taking an exit and Madge began snapping rapid-fire orders, growling at us in her smoker’s contralto, letting us know she is not pleased.
However, she does give small-town drivers like me precise instructions on how to get quickly back on the freeway. Deep down, you know she cares about your well being, but her tone is that of a bossy older sister who believes in tough love.
Oh, she makes the rare mistake. Driving a state highway the other day, she inexplicably told us to leave the road we were on and take the next right, which was a rough country road heading into the Idaho wilds. We ignored her and she had the decency to say nothing.
I wish my father could have lived to meet Madge. He also had a gift for driving straight to almost any location in the sprawling streets of Boise Valley. He was employed late in his working years delivering groceries to housebound customers.
He had a sense of direction that a Canada goose would envy. And like Madge, he could be blunt if he was a passenger in a car that I was driving. He would salt his curt instructions with a few profane words. Listening to Madge, I get the impression she would do the same if her prissy job description allowed.
But I wouldn’t mind. In this mealy-mouthed era of boot-licking politicians, I miss bluntly honest people like Harry Truman and my father. And for all her gruffness, I’m proud to have dear old bossy Madge riding shotgun at my side.Bill Hall can be contacted at email@example.com or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501