M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Monday, August 09, 2004  

Zero = Operator

Trash's grad school friend CorpKitten (whom you may remember from last year's New York Stories) was in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and Trash drove down on Friday to pick her up. Trash was a little nervous about this because the last time we had done this, we'd gotten lost. And I'd been with her that time. This time I was putting in a full Friday's work, so she was on her own.

Me: Excited about your little adventure?

Trash: No.

Me: You'll be fine. Call me from the road on your cell phone. I'll have Yahoo!Maps up all day.

Trash used to drive down to Champaign-Urbana by herself several times a year (see above, re grad school) and had become quite confident at it. Of course, who has time for self-doubt at eighty-nine miles per hour? On this trip, she had printed-out directions and a couple of printed-out maps, but navigating isn't her strong suit even when she isn't driving at the same time.

Me: Where are you now?

Trash: I'm still on 52 and I just got through Rochester. Horrible road construction. I think the ramp I need to take to I-90 is closed.

Me: Have you gotten to I-90 yet?

Trash: No. I just saw a sign saying to take County Road 1 to I-90 but it was closed.

Me: (scrolling and zooming furiously on an interactive map of Rochester, Minnesota) Hang on…

I always thought the coolest thing to be in The Matrix would be the operator. You sit in your nice comfy chair and watch what's going on—once you've learned to interpret all those numbers, letters, and Japanese characters streaming down the screens, of course. You get to give your guys detailed and knowledgeable directions over their spiffy cell phones and sound all omniscient and reliable while they scurry around desperately for their lives. You don't have to actually risk anything, but boy are they grateful when you get them to an exit and unplug them.

Trash: So when you said you'd have Yahoo!Maps up all day…

Me: (Terribly confused by the fact that 52 and County Road 1 appear to intersect about twenty miles away from where Trash is) I do. I'm working on it.

Trash: I have to go.

I suck.

Trash called me a few minutes later from I-90, well on track to LaCrosse. The tricky part was yet to come: navigating through the city. She was picking up CorpKitten at a place that's about as far away as you can get from the freeway exit and still be in LaCrosse. And she was still kind of worried about getting lost again. I assured her I wouldn't let that happen.

She called me again to update me on her progress just before reaching the Wisconsin state line. We went over the in-town directions on the phone . I didn't have the heart to tell her that Yahoo!Maps had gone down ten minutes before. And that MapQuest was similarly hosed. Her operator's screens had gone dark.

Fortunately, the place she was headed has a map on its website. Which I pulled up and left up. When she called me for the last time, well inside downtown LaCrosse, she was stuck in construction traffic beyond the map's borders. I smoothly rerouted her to an alternate road, not knowing if it actually existed at her latitude. She jinked over a block and drove right to her destination with no difficulty whatsoever.

I was feeling pretty good about pulling that out. Maybe I'm cool enough to be an operator after all (although I maintain that the coolest person in the entire series is Gloria Foster, who took one look at the script for Matrix Revolutions and decided that she'd rather be dead than in that piece of crap).

Then the next day, Bitter was on her way over and missed her exit due to a combination of road construction and the behavior of a very large, very rude semi. She called from somewhere deep inside the suburban labyrinth of St. Louis Park. I dashed to my study and pulled up Yahoo!Maps, which by now was back up.

Me:Where are you?

Bitter: The freeway is on my right…Ooh, Target building on my left.

Me: Okay, good. I know exactly where you are. Keep going straight. You're about to come to Excelsior Boulevard. Take a left there, stay on it until France, and take a right on France.



Bitter: How the hell did I end up at Wirth Parkway?

Me: Okay, I was thinking of an entirely different Target building.

Bitter: I'm just going to get back on the freeway now.

I would be the worst Matrix operator in the world. I guess that's a good thing to know about oneself.

Today's best search phrase: "What's up with your shoes and your cats." Let's just say that they don't cross paths often enough for us to be in the habit of inspecting our footwear before putting it on, but there have been a few occasions when we wished we were.

posted by M. Giant 9:16 PM 5 comments


Champaign-Urbana! I live thirty miles south of there my whole life, worked in Urbana for a couple of years, and almost went to U of I, but opted for a Southern school with smaller classes. Small world! Nice try on being the Operator, though.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 10, 2004 at 8:13 AM  


I just got back from Wisconsin too! I navigated my way through hell and back to see Dave Matthews. That interchange at Rochester was a bitch. And then in Wisconsin, everyone who was driving badly (And I mean BADLY) had Illinois license plates. Now, I don't want to judge or anything, but...

Anyway, we were deep in the heart of (AssRape Country) Wisconsin, and there's nothing scarier than driving through the pitch-black dark after a concert to find a Taco Bell you KNOW is there 'cause you saw it on your way in, and the only signs to direct you say,
"Milwaukee -->
Chicago <--"

Great. Thanks, signmakers. You're really on the ball there. And Yahoo! Maps? Told us to go in the opposite direction we wanted to go every single time. At one point, I had a Wisconsin "By County" map (real helpful...not really), a state of Wisconsin map, the directions to the hotel with their little drawn map, and the local "tourist guide" map to help me get where I needed to be that wasn't an antique shop or a strip club. I *heart* Wisconsin.

--Kristi J. (a.k.a. Glad To Be Home In Minnesota Where Things Are Normal And Don't Suck)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 10, 2004 at 8:44 AM  

I can vouch for those crazy Illinois drivers. I live near Milwaukee and when it comes to a weekend in Summer, stay off the roads.

By Blogger Brian, at August 10, 2004 at 2:24 PM  

This reminds me of a business idea I had in 1996. There would be a roomful of people answering phones and sitting in front of computers that had DeLorme Street Atlas. People would call on their cell phones from their cars when they were lost and we'd steer them in the right direction. The thing I couldn't figure out was how to publicize the service. I suppose I could've just called it, IamLost.com, issued an IPO and retired. Oh well, then I wouldn't get to be a civil servant for the state of Connecticut. -- ryanoneil

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 11, 2004 at 5:53 AM  

D and I never, ever user Yahoo Maps because we always got into a fight that put a damper on our travel adventures. Our marriage was saved when we switched to switchboard.com (which uses mapsusonus.com). My sister uses randmcnally.com but their site is very, very slow. You could never be a Matrix operator when using randmcnally.com
Just comment.

By Blogger A, at August 11, 2004 at 12:51 PM  

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