Mapless in Connecticut

Here’s a question: are GPS units killing printed maps?

Saturday morning I joined a parade of cars and trucks shunted off I-91 South near Springfield, MA. A terrible accident hours earlier shut down the highway.

There were no detour signs, no information about why the road was closed, and no clue about where to get back on the highway. I felt a powerful urge to have a map in my hand just in case an alternate route was needed.

The first gas station along the way had nothing. “I’ve got a map of Longmeadow,” offered the clerk. No thanks.

Arriving in Naugatuck (where Naugahyde was first manufactured) I went searching for a map to help plot my trip home. Four different stores — three of them convenience store/gas stations — didn’t have a single map for sale.

When I asked if they had maps, they looked at me like I was asking for directions to the Nauga farm.

GPS receivers are great for navigating, but make lousy maps. Sure, they tell you which way to turn and all have lots of whistles and bells — but it makes you blind to the big picture. It doesn’t show where you’re going, just how to get there.

An actual map allows you perspective on your location and how it relates to other places. Looking at a map and figuring out your own route is an important skill — and like a lot of technology, the GPS might be making us dumber.

Besides, I don’t want directions, I want to look at a map and make my own bad decisions.

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6 responses to “Mapless in Connecticut

  1. Hear, hear! I actually refuse to have a GPS in my car . . . I love love LOVE my paper maps, and I love having enough of a sense of self-location to know that I’m going in the right direction, judging from cues gleaned from sun, or rivers crossed, or city skylines, etc. I do a TON of back-road driving between Geneseo and here, as I get bored of the Thruway, and have found all sorts of cool little roads that a GPS never would have pointed me to. When I worked in Great Barrington, my co-pilot and I actually used Topo Maps to drive on trails and creek-beds and the like, in search of the shortest distance possible between home and office. GPS’s don’t curry to that sort of personality . . .

  2. I like the GPS for helping me spot my destination once I’m in a neighborhood or in cities for picking out street names. What drives me nuts are the crazy routes they sometimes suggest for simple trips.

  3. Call me if you’re lost in CT. I grew up there and can give helpful directions such as “Turn left where the stables used to be” or “It’s the third right past the Barhydt’s house”.

  4. Couldn’t agree more. Do kids even still learn how to read a map in school? I’ve given my older kids road atlas’s and they love them – carry them in the trunk for those times the GPS doesn’t work. Or when you just want to take a more scenic route….

  5. Maps will be hard to come by in 5 years…only the Klan and Militias will have a need for them. I agree, GPS is making people dumber…even women are getting to places faster and without getting lost, what’s the world coming to?

    Personally, I still buy an atlas every couple years…maybe I should get my next one signed by someone at a toll booth or one of those in-the-middle-of-nowhere gas stations you always seem to pass, when you’re lost on an old Arkansas dirt road. It could be worth something one day.

  6. Years ago when I delivered in CT, you could get your hands on local and/or township maps, whick was OK if you didn’t want to go more than 5-6 miles.

    One day in the hills south of New Milford, I flagged down a CT State Trooper for directions. He very graciously gave me HIS state issued CT state map.

    Erins Dad. I’ve received…and given…many directions like that. One notable one in CT was ‘turn at the big rock’. When I qustioned that, I was told, “you’ll know.” Sure enough there was this 20′ tall outcrop that looked like the Washington Monument in abstract!

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