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Fish Or Cut Bait

GPS, Who Needs It?
by Bob Ciminel

April 18, 2005

I was working in Germany last week and the company provided me with a rental car equipped with one of those onboard GPS navigation systems that talks to you. It was a neat little feature considering the car was just a VW. Well, to be more exact, it was a VW Phaeton, a $67,000, two-and-a-half ton monster made for 210 kilometers per hour on the Autobahn. Of course, I had to verify that claim, and, yes, it could do 130 miles per hour with ease. I didn't ask why they rented such an expensive car for someone who usually sits in Atlanta traffic and rarely goes faster than 80 mph. I thoroughly enjoyed the car.

jpg tower and nuclear plant

The tower was built in the 11th Century and in the background is a 30-yr-old nuclear plant...
Photo by Bob Ciminel


My wife, Alice, came along on the trip because we have good friends who live about 45 minutes from where I was working. Because we turned the trip into a mini-vacation, we arrived a day earlier than necessary and spent it with our friends.

We checked into our hotel and decided to drive around the area for a few hours to help us stay awake while we adjusted to the jet lag. Germany is in the GMT +5 time zone, six hours ahead of Atlanta. We arrived on Delta's Flight 116, the daily non-stop BMW/VW/Chrysler-Benz "red eye" shuttle that operates between Stuttgart and Atlanta, so we were a little discombobulated by the time difference.

My work location was the Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant, which is nestled in an old quarry on the east bank of the Neckar River, approximately halfway between Stuttgart and Hielbron. The vineyards surrounding the plant produce grapes that go into some of Germany's favorite wines, such as Riesling, Lemberger, and Trollinger. We drank a lot of Lemberger for dinner. I highly recommend it, if you lean toward red wine.

The power plant is a good neighbor, sacrificing almost 15 megawatts of marketable electricity to run large fans in its low-profile cooling tower. The cooling tower design ensures that it will not cast a shadow on the vineyards. The fans push the hot, moist air from the tower about 100 meters into the air before the moisture condenses and forms a plume. It is an amazing sight to see a cloud materializing out of what appears to be thin air.

I digress. Getting back to the GPS navigation system, we turned it on and selected the town we wanted to visit. As we started down the road, the sexy female voice in the navigation system began talking - in German!

jpg gps

German GPS unit in rental car ...
Photo by Bob Ciminel

I don't speak German, but Alice does. She lived in Germany during the Sixties and Seventies - so, no problem, right. Wrong! Alice also thinks in German. She didn't need to translate the navigation system instructions because she understood them. They were perfectly clear to her; however, I was the one driving. At the last minute, Alice yelled, "Turn right, Bob!" and looked at me as if she was talking to an idiot. I kept my cool, smiled at her and said, "Yes, mien Frau!"

After a few more missed directions, I finally got the hang of asking Alice what the GPS said before we arrived at intersections and life became much simpler. We used the GPS to great advantage and managed to find all of the spots we were interested in seeing. On the way back to the hotel, Alice commented on what a great feature the navigation system was and how convenient it would be to have one in our next car. A prudent man would have just said, "Yeah, that's a great idea. We'll have to check it out when we get back to the States," but not me. No, old Bob had to make that game-saving three-point shot just before the buzzer went off. I looked at Alice and said, "Honey, you don't need a GPS navigation system in your car. All I have to do is go online and look at the debit card transactions in our checking account and I can follow you all around Atlanta.


Bob Ciminel's articles may include satire and parody, and mix fact with fiction.
He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.

Bob Ciminel lives in Roswell, Georgia, and works for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.  Bob is also a conductor on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.


Bob Ciminel ©2001 - 2005
All Rights Reserved

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