Most of my friends think that I use (or over-use) the sat nav (which is called Gladys by the way) a lot because I have no sense of direction. They are wrong. I do have no sense of direction but this is not why I use the sat nav so much.
Yesterday evening, I had to drive back from Warwickshire to home (a journey of about one-and-a-half hours) and despite knowing the way quite well, I didn’t think twice about putting Gladys on her little sucker thing in the right-hand corner of the windscreen.
The reason I put Gladys on her little sucker thing was not to help me navigate the various motorways between Warwickshire and Shrewsbury (of which there are quite a few) but for company. I find Gladys’s warm glow reassuring. I find her company pleasant. She doesn’t talk much. She has a nice, gentle male Australian drawl and she glows at me, providing me with that comforting feeling that there is something (someone) else in the car with me. I don’t like driving in the dark. I especially don’t like driving in the dark alone. So Gladys keeps me company and is there to remind me that I’m nearly home.
Sometimes, especially when I am alone and it is dark, I need more than Gladys for company. Yesterday was one of those days. Feeling sleepy after a late night I felt the need for Radio 4.
I was very pleased to find that Open Book was on at the beginning of my journey. I love Open Book. I find Mariella Fostrup’s voice so relaxing. And what’s more, she talks to me about one of my favourite topics: books.
But in reality, I was alone in the car. Gladys and Radio 4 are just things. So my weird thought later when I got home was: why does a sat nav and a radio make me feel like I am in good company? Why do I personify these things? Why does the sat nav to me have a personality (she’s terribly stubborn and stroppy if I go the wrong way)? Why do I imagine the people on Radio 4 are talking to just me? Why is Gladys called Gladys? Why do I find comfort from being told ‘In 250 yards, take the motorway’? Why do I choose radio over music when I’m alone in the car?
I wonder if I’m not uncommon in my personification of these objects when I’m feeling anxious (driving in the dark), why I need to feel that I’m not doing this slightly scary journey alone. I even find myself talking out loud to Gladys about how much I hate the M6 or asking her to clarify why I need to ‘keep right’ when I don’t think I do. I think at the back of my mind there is always the risk of death on the M6 and I don’t want to die alone so that is why I have to have Gladys and Mariella with me.
Do other people do this too? I’m not sure I’d go as far as the narrator in Jonathan Coe’s The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim who develops an odd relationship with his sat nav to the point of insanity, at least this hadn’t happened yesterday by the time I reached home. I was quite glad to put Gladys to sleep when I reached home and she was soon forgotten as I enter the world of the real organic: my family and my cat, their needs, hungers, questions and cuddles.