GPS in the Dark

For Christmas my parents gave me a GPS unit. It is almost the same one that they have, maybe one version newer. My dad has been pretty into it since he got it and I guess he thought it might come in handy for me as well. I used it this afternoon and evening to drive down to the New Hampshire coast. It served me well.

Typically, if I drive somewhere I have never been, I get directions. I like to figure out where I am headed, to the last turn, before I start the car. But this time I did not do that. I had meant to, but just never got around to it. I was planning to rent a car to head down to save some cash for my organization (cheaper to pay the rental company than to reimburse me for mileage on my own car) so I used the new toy to get me there as I wasn’t sure where it was. That worked great.

Once I had the rental car I sat in the parking lot waiting for satellite connection. It took me a bit to find the location I was headed on the little black box, but once I did I was off down the interstate. Then it told me to just go on that road for 144 miles. Not much action there.

The thing has a lovely woman’s voice. She tells me where to turn right when I need to know. She is just so friendly, that GPS lass. Of course, her confidence can be deceptive. Once, when the family was headed out on an adventure together, the unit seemed to think we were a little off from where we actually were. According to that thing we were driving through rivers and buildings, but she just kept telling us to turn left or right.

It got dark as I headed down, on my own except for the lass, and I dutifully followed her directions. I turned where she told me to turn and ended up at a darkened building. It turns out that was the country club, not the hotel, so I rejiggered and turned about and after half a mile found the right spot.

I am not a huge fan of driving in the dark, especially in unknown locales, but I did manage to find my way, even without getting directions first. I was a little hesitant, and I don’t know that I’d go without a backup plan every time, but it worked. As I walked from my car to the main entrance to the hotel, I ran into a friend who is also attending the conference for which I drove all those hours. She said this: “I don’t know how I got here; I just kept on going and managed to find the place.”

Sounds about right to me.

Things I Don’t Buy

There are a few things that I pretty much don’t ever buy.  They seem wasteful or unnecessary or I just don’t need them.  I am not perfect about these, so I suppose I am somewhat of a hypocrite but I do try.  Here is a short list:

1. Bottled water.  There was a time when I did not think all that much about bottled water.  When I did think about it, it seemed a little silly.  Why pay for water?  The stuff is free.  But when I started to learn about how wasteful it is when one considers the larger consequences, it became a full on boycott.  I won’t even drink bottled water if it is given to me, unless I am desperate.  Think about it simply:  instead of energy to extract and treat the water, you’ve got those same concerns plus energy and resources to make bottles, fill the bottles, transport the full bottles and then deal with disposal.

2. Drinking straws.  We have them around but I will not purchase them myself.  They are fun, sure, but they are way too wasteful.  Sip slowly and maybe they get used for one hour.  And then they last forever in a landfill.  That seems a little unbalanced.  Our glass straws work pretty well so far.

3. Paper towels or napkins.  These seem a little excessive.  Paper towels?  Real cloth towels and napkins work way better, last longer and are cheaper over their lifetime.  A no brainer in my book.

4. Incandescent light bulbs.  Considering how much more energy they use, I won’t ever buy one again.  Feeling the heat from one is tangibly soaking in wasted electricity.  One of the these days we will switch to all LED light bulbs and we will wonder how we ever wasted so much energy on compact fluorescents.

5. DVD’s.  With Netflix, video stores, the library and random freebies, I can’t justify buying them.  I rarely watch a movie more than once so purchasing one seems too much.

6. Television.  Now that things have gone digital, we really don’t get television at all.  We get information and entertainment from other sources–the internet, magazines, radio.  I have considered satellite television, but I just can’t fork over cash every month for something I either won’t watch or will regret wasting time on.  One of these days we will get around to getting a converter box so we can at least watch the bad news if we want to.

7. Bar soap.  It isn’t that I don’t use bar soap, but I haven’t purchased it in years.  I have gotten free samples and random bars in gift bags and soap from who knows where.  I still have plenty waiting in the wings when the currently in-use bars are exhausted.  I have purchased shampoo and dish soap and some liquid hand soap but bar soap?  No need to buy.

8. Pencils. With the stock we have collected over the years, as well as the ones that manage to filter into our household from all kinds of sources (school events, conferences, holidays, what have you), we have enough to last pretty much forever.  I even try to keep them sharp at all times when I use them.  Plus, I do lots of crossword and similar puzzles.  Nonetheless, buying a pencil would be like buying air.  I can always find them when I need them.

There are others, of course.  But these come to mind at the moment.  I would love to say that I don’t ever purchase electricity, but that day seems far off.  Someday, I hope.  Someday.