• J.R. Reed

Autism and My GPS


It was a strange conversation during a recent road trip.

Let’s go ahead and file this one under “Weird AND Autistic.”


I just got back from a disability advocacy class that was a few hours from my home in Southwest Missouri. I’ve made this same journey several times in the past, but for some reason I went ahead and used my GPS for the return trip home yesterday.


I’m not sure if it had been a full moon or if I was just in a strange mood, but I found myself arguing with my GPS and at one point, even yelling at it.


The whole time I was doing this, my black lab service dog, Tye, was in the back seat just looking at me like I was weird, which, as noted above, I’ll cop to in this instance.


I’m a very literal person and look at things factually. When I hear or see things that are otherwise, it can bug me to no end, which it did on Saturday for reasons I haven’t quite yet figured out.


The problems happened when my GPS, in a female Australian voice, kept telling me to do things that made absolutely no sense. Usually when I talk to my GPS its because I pulled off the highway to get gas or something to eat and she repeatedly tells me to get back on the right route, but that wasn’t the case this time,  I was on the right route and yet she was still hassling me.


As I left Columbia, MO, I was on Highway 63 and my GPS, who I usually call, ‘Chica”, as in, “Chill out, Chica, I’m just getting gas,” was telling me to merge onto highway 63.

That may not sound like a big deal until you learn that there had been no exits of any kind for at least five miles and no other highway or interstate for about fifteen miles.

“How can I merge onto 63 if I’m already on 63 and there’s nothing to merge with?” I asked her out loud.


Getting no response, I decided to let it go, but it happened again a few miles later.

“Merge onto highway 63 South,” she said in her Aussie accent. This time I got louder.

“C’ mon, Chica! I’m already on 63 and there’s nothing to merger onto!”


After this outburst, I saw Tye stick his nose between the front seats, presumably to figure out who the heck I was talking to. Seeing no one else up there, he went back to snoozing.

After another twenty minutes, I exited 63 and got on Highway 54 West. This section of the trip was even worse. I was told at least four times to merge where there was nothing to merge with and the kicker came about an hour into the trip.


“Stay in the center two lanes,” she said. No big deal, right?


Wrong.


Again, being very literal, I looked at the road I was on and then peered ahead as far as I could see before responding in a particularly loud voice.


“There are only two lanes!” I bellowed. “How the heck am I supposed to stay in the center two lanes if there are only two lanes?  You need to get your eyes checked, Chica!”


At this point, I recognized that I had a problem and decided the best way to not yell at my GPS was to eat something so that my mouth was full. I looked down at the seat next to me and started shoving fistfuls of gummy bears into my mouth.


A half-pound later I was out of gummy bears, but Chica hadn’t told me to do anything in a while, so I was feeling better about things. At least I was until I looked in my rearview mirror and saw Tye rolling his eyes at me.


Luckily, the trip, post gummy bears, was much better. The GPS didn’t tell me to do anything I couldn’t actually do, and I made it home without further incident.


As I sat on the couch, I thought about the trip home and about my reaction. I came to the conclusion that I might actually need a small vacation, though definitely nothing that would put me behind the wheel of a car.

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