Sunday, January 20, 2008

Can’t get there from here

When you ask my dad for directions, he’s likely to respond with something like, “Oh, that’s seven miles southeast of here,” as he points towards the living room wall. What you are then to do with this information, I’m not exactly sure. I suppose it would depend on whether or not you remembered to grab the sextant when you came in off of your frigate.

My wife Kara and I won’t be bothering him or anyone else for directions anytime soon, though, now that we have Jill in our lives. Her arrival in our household marked an abrupt close to the era of asking for directions. She is the voice of American Accent (female) on the GPS unit that Santa-in-law gave to us. If you’re not familiar with GPS devices, just watch the Super Bowl commercials this year and you’ll be all caught up. A little bit dumber, but all caught up.

We chose Jill out of a list of several accents and genders. We originally thought we’d stick with Daniel, the British male voice. Right after Christmas, we drove around with Kara’s sister Sarah and her boyfriend Brad in the backseat while Daniel calmly guided us along.

“This is awesome,” Brad said. “I feel like I’m Batman and Alfred’s up there telling me where to go.”

There is something upper-crusty about having a British guy giving you directions, like you’re driving to a place where meals are served under big metal doohickeys. Unfortunately for Daniel, he was programmed to say “R.T.” instead of “route,” and he couldn’t tell the difference between an “I” and a “1,” which made him less than ideal as a guide for dispensing our particular dark brand of vigilante justice.

As Brad looked through the list of available accents, he said, “Too bad they don’t have any fun accents in here, like a drunken Irish dude or James Earl Jones.”

I pictured a family in a minivan driving down a quiet country road as their GPS unit suddenly barked, “Oy! Turn lef’, ya bloody wankah!”

Still, maybe Brad was onto something with the James Earl Jones suggestion. Who wouldn’t like to take a road trip with James Earl Jones? Also, if you called him James Jones, would anybody know who you were talking about? It would be like saying John Booth or Kermit Frog.

I’m a big fan of James Earl Jones, despite being wronged by him a decade ago. When I was a student at Penn State, he came on campus as part of a Distinguished Speakers tour. I went with some of my friends to see him in the packed auditorium. It was surreal to hear the first few words out of his mouth, like we were all starring in a movie that he was narrating.

Then he proceeded to give a canned speech on giving more money to the arts that I’m pretty sure he downloaded off the internet. As the novelty of hearing his voice wore off, the only thing one could do to stay awake was to picture him in his role as Thulsa Doom, evil tyrant and beheader of Conan the Barbarian’s mom.

At the end of his speech, he allowed time for a short Q&A. A brave student walked up to the microphone in the aisle and asked, “Could you say ‘Luke, I am your father’ for us?”

We all leaned forward in our seats in anticipation. James Earl Jones hesitated for a moment and then said, “Oh, you could do it better than me,” before moving along to the next, much more boring, question. The curtain behind him billowed with the disappointed exhales of a thousand college students.

Regardless, it would be really cool to have him tell me the fastest way to the mall. I can just imagine how awesome it would sound to turn on the car and hear him say, “It’s seven miles southeast of here.

You can tell Mike Todd where to go at


  1. I don't really need GPS because I just take I-70 east or west. At least I won't get going the wrong direction and drive 500 miles out of my way when I'm trying to get to the post office. Thank God for technology.

  2. It would be fun if you could pick all sorts of characters from movies voices. hehehehe

  3. JP -- Yo man! Glad you remember how to work the internets. We gotta catch up soon.

    burf -- Glad we're on the same wavelength. Yoda would be pretty cool, too. Turn left in .3 miles, you should. Recalculating, I am.