You know what it’s like when you first move somewhere. Everyone you meet is new, so you can’t be yourself. It’s all false smiles and over-enthusiasm. Or alternatively it’s feelings of panic and complete tongue tie – when everything that comes out of your mouth sounds ridiculous. Or if you are like me, a bit of both. It takes time to make proper friends, to feel comfortable enough with your new pals to be able to say nothing if you’ve got nothing to say, or to not mind if what you do say doesn’t make any sense.
But in the meantime, as you sit in this limboland alone waiting for the people you meet to become more than just aquaintances, you do need someone to talk to. Or at the very least, someone to talk to you. And this is where my new best friend comes in: my GPS.
At first, there was Sarena. Sarena was very polite and so, so helpful. Sarena always told me which lane to be in when I needed to turn. She liked to have a go at saying the road names, even if sometimes the words that came out of her were indecipherable from the actual pronounciation. She gave me lots of notice when a junction was coming up or when I needed to be aware of something about to happen (well, she wasn’t able to warn me that yet another minibus was about to cut me up – but that’s just something you have to get used to in South Africa). She even sometimes told me that there was “light traffic” on my route. And most importantly, Sarena didn’t get cross with me if I didn’t turn where she told me to, she calmly gave me an alternative route to follow. She was so much more efficient than her British cousins who just love to over-use that incedibly annoying phrase “re-calculating….re-calculating”. Not quite as annoying as “unexpected item in the bagging area” – but getting there.
So Sarena and I were getting on well. There were days when I would go hours without hearing anyone else’s voice. Sometimes I attempted to make conversation with her, but she managed to ignore me and carried on doing her job.
But one day Sarena and I fell out. I asked her to take me to Brooklyn Mall. She took me to the Pretoria Country Club. Now my geography of this city is still not brilliant (based partly on the fact that I am over-reliant on my best friend…) but I am pretty sure the Country Club is not hugging up to the Mall. Sometimes you can forgive a GPS’s mistakes when you realise that the place you are trying to get to is basically just next to the place they have taken you to. After all, satellites are a long way away – I am sure they are not always entirely accurate.
However in this case there was quite a lot of space between the two places – I mean like streets and streets, possibly even districts. She had just taken me somewhere that was totally WRONG. Was she doing it on purpose? Was she rebelling?
I forgave her this one time and we carried on as before. But then it happened again. I asked her to take me somewhere and, well, I am not quite sure what happened but we went all OVER the place. Maybe she thought I needed to go a scenic route? Maybe she was just having an off-day. I ended up coming up against road barriers on one of those guarded estates, none of which I was able to pass – and in the end just had to ignore everything she told me and actually start to read some of the road signs. Well I suppose it was a good way to begin to get my bearings!
So me and Sarena fell out – what next? I looked at the settings and with a slight pang of guilt I switched from Sarena to James. Now James is a different kettle of fish altogether to Sarena. James is a smooooth operator. He never raises his voice, his is so monosyllibic I worry sometimes that he will send me to sleep while I drive. His is also not as good as Sarena at telling me which lane to get into and doesn’t want to try and pronounce the names of the streets. Instead, we get a lot of “turn left, turn left, turn right”. I am not sure if he is scared of some of the harder words he might need to say or whether he has decided it’s easier to ignore them altogether in a country where the road names keep changing anyway.
So James has been ok so far, he hasn’t made any major mistakes. But he’s a little, well, boring. I miss Sarena and her attempts at pronouncing “AISJ” (the acronym for our children’s school) or the way she put several separate parts of a word together to make something else entirely. I feel like maybe I should give her another chance.
However, I have just had a look at my GPS and I see I have another English option – Kate. I have avoided Kate so far, with her associations with the “English rose” Kate Middleton, I have a feeling she will annoy me. But maybe I should give her a go – you never know, she might be the sensible, head-girl sort that I need.
And if Kate doesn’t work out I can always try Italian Simona, German Marie, French Agatha or “Afrikaans” (who doesn’t appear to get a name). If there’s one guranteed way to get me lost – that would be it!
Do you use a GPS? If so, do you prefer a particular voice? Have any funny GPS stories?