Around Christmas, I met TomTom. We’ve been inseparable ever since.
TomTom, if you don’t know, is a portable GPS navigation system. It mounts on the car dashboard, and its voice commands guide you to your destination. For someone like me—I get lost finding my way back to the table after a visit to the restaurant bathroom—it’s a godsend.
Since we met, I’ve realized that he’s all that I’d ever want. And, as with any good relationship, he’s full of small surprises I didn’t even realize I’d want, but now find I can’t live without.
What’s more, he’s opened up new horizons for me, encouraging me to venture into places I would have considered off limits before he was my companion.
What’s all that if not the essence of a good relationship? Can you see why I love him? In fact, let me count the ways…
Trust. TomTom gets me from here to there with pin-point precision. With a sure voice, he guides me through this Left and that Right, always giving me plenty of notice when I need to take a turn.
And, this may be obvious, but he’s never steered me wrong.
Reliability. Last week, in Los Angeles, it was TomTom who guided me—and my cab driver—from Beverly Hills to Tujunga.
Naveen had just moved to Beverly Hills from Mumbai, and when I said “Tujunga” he thought I said “Topanga,” and it didn’t get any better from there. It’s a long story, but I’ll sum up: Good thing I had TomTom by my side.
Patience. TomTom reminds me— frequently but gently—when a turn is imminent. It’s not that he thinks I’m a child who needs reminding; it’s that he knows I have a lot on my mind. Or I’m yakking on the cell phone. Or filling the car with my own off-key but soulful rendition of Patty Larkin’s “Book I’m Not Reading.”
He doesn’t lose patience. He doesn’t get shrill. He just makes himself heard.
Nonjudgmental. When I do forget a turn, or take the wrong one, TomTom doesn’t judge, doesn’t mutter under his breath, doesn’t sigh to express a kind of resigned but deep disappointment that suggests something is lacking at my very core. Doesn’t even—as my friend Laura’s Garmin does—emit a single, tired-sounding “Reconfiguring.”
Instead, it silently figures a new path for me that signals to me, “No problem. Keep going. You’re okay. And you look great today, by the way.”
Tenacious. Occasionally, I take a turn that lands me in an unfamiliar parking lot, or on a road that TomTom (or his database) literally hasn’t been down before.
Like any good partner, he stays right there alongside me. It may look to TomTom like we are driving clear across the town green, but that doesn’t matter. That’s when TomTom is most Zen: He doesn’t waver, even though the way isn’t clear, and there’s no discernable path we’re on.
I can’t say things are perfect, though. Lately I’ve been wondering about the two of us. My own boyfriend—the flesh and blood kind—has grumbled about him.
One time, when we were riding in the car together, TomTom told us to veer Right… when V had suggested we should stay straight. V, as it turns out, was correct, and the frosty silence that settled over us told me that we both knew I had taken TomTom’s side.
Pop psychologists scoff at the kind of dependency I’m developing with TomTom as something of a dysfunctional pattern. They might describe my reliance on him as “codependent”—one side of a relationship between mutually needy people.
I’m not so sure about that. Some of the most satisfying relationships in my life (with a partner, good friends or my children) have elements of codependence to them, assuming that I rely on their love or friendship to keep me sane, grounded, whole.
The problem might be when the love starts to stunt, when instead of encouraging new growth and fresh blooms in an individual, the love acts like clipping sheers to snip off any new little shoot.
And maybe that’s where TomTom leaves me cold: Each route he plans for me snips away at my confidence to navigate without him.
His sole function in life, in fact, is to keep me from learning—for example, how to get from my home to my son’s school to his friend’s house in the next town without first needing to return home to chart the way.
Why bother? TomTom already knows. TomTom does it for me. TomTom takes care of me.
He’s the wonder—and the menace of technology: And I’m not sure I really care.