Saturday, March 2

Vacation Day 3 (or so): Lost in Los Angeles

Have you ever stopped to ask for directions only to find that your confusion and rising sense of panic is worsened because you can't understand the "help" given to you? Maybe you don't even recognize the language you are hearing.

Such was the case on our most recent vacation day.

We were enjoying our Los Angeles vacation like any true angeleno would: tuned to AM 1070 listening for our doom as announced "On the Fives", that is the traffic report.

The Saturday of a three day weekend and our doom was pretty much sealed: the traffic report named each of the freeways on our planned route south. But we've considered the Greater Los Angeles area our home long enough... surely we could outsmart the poor, speed-limit-abiding, ignorant tourists clogging our freeways. Besides, if our wits weren't quite sufficient to get us from Point A to Point B along an alternate route, we always had our Garmin GPS for back up. So off we zipped.

Permit me briefly to provide an aside.

In some moment of desperate parenthood, our GPS became one of the best options for entertaining a small child on a long drive. The exact day of this desperate act has long been lost in the annals of history, but this particular item has become like unto a video game for CutieLittleBoy. And, as is true of many in his generation, he has found features we never knew existed. His favorite feature is the audiobook player that has nothing but the free demo of the first few paragraphs of the Dean Koontz novel By the Light of the Moon. Believe you me, there is nothing quite so startling to a peaceful country drive (or a lengthy phone conversation with a family member) as a voice booming from a space you thought only your two year old occupied, saying
Shortly before being knocked unconscious and bound to a chair, before being injected with an unknown substance against his will, and before discovering that the world was deeply mysterious in ways he'd never before imagined...
Even if I were the type to appreciate the occasional suspense novel, there is something deeply disturbing about the opening line being the first complex sentence heard from the carseat of my sweet, innocent, darling CutieBabyBoy.

So let me gather the purpose of this aside and move on: CutieLittleBoy uses the GPS much more frequently than do his parents.

It came as a huge relief, therefore, when he fell asleep before we reached the unfamiliar roads of our alternate route. I had no need for hesitation as I whipped out the GPS from its hiding place and flaunted it in triumph as I turned it on.

And that is where the triumph gave way to discovering that the world was deeply mysterious in ways I'd never before imagined. Somehow, sometime, CutieLittleBoy had changed both the text language and the spoken language to some unknown script... and not to brag, but I can recognize a fair number of languages. Polish? Czech? Who knows? Maybe it was Ruthenian or Kashubian.

And as I said, I don't use the GPS frequently enough to know my way around without English text. Sure the icons are the same whether in Russian or English, but I have yet to become fluent in the pictorial language of computer programers. I had no recourse but to try and err until I found some clue that could lead me to familiar ground. Unfortunately, the only familiar ground I could find for quite some time was the very Polish (or Czech or ?) phrase "Media Player". (If any of you are looking for parallel jokes to the "I can speak Spanish, look... taco, burrito!" there you go. You're welcome.)

For a brief minute I considered waking up the expert in the backseat to see if he could help, but I finally fumbled my way to English... and from there we made it back to known freeways and onto a more predictable vacation experience. But that is another post.




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