Google Maps: Order From and Within Chaos


(Note: Because I don’t have location services turned on on my iPad, Google Maps puts my location at what, to me, looks like the middle of nowhere. So, for the purposes of this post, I thought it would be fun to illustrate the drive from Boston to the middle of no place.)

The other day I was driving to an interview (!) at a company 27 miles from my house, with a meeting time of 9am. I left at 7:30, choosing my start time after consulting with my trusted Google maps app over the course of a few days. Based on the data points it had provided, and after tracking a few additional data points that morning, I determined that 90 minutes would ensure an on-time arrival.

Over time, I have learned to rely on the ETAs provided by Google maps—I have found them to be accurate and that their route suggestions are the most effective. (The latter I learned the hard way, ignoring what I viewed as a cockamamie re-routing suggestion…only to sit in dead-stopped traffic on “my” route for over an hour while Storrow Drive was completely closed for the annual AIDS Walk.)

In any case, the traffic was horrendous. I kept checking the ETA provided by the app…8:43…8:45…8:42…8:50…as I kept checking, somewhat obsessively and neurotically, I found myself both calmed and soothed by what I found. It used to be, in traffic, that there was no way to know how it was going to turn out. Stress. Worry. Angst. “Oh my God, am I ever going to get there? What if I’m late? Oh my God.” And so on. Even though the ETA was changing slightly, up and down and up again, I knew I was going to make it on time, a knowledge that almost completely eliminated all of my logistical worries. When I realized that the minute the app informed me that I might be late I could simply call ahead with apologies, I relaxed altogether. A previously unsolvable problem of guessing when I might end up where I needed to be was solved. There was tremendous relief in that, which freed up my mind to consider how knowing something (when I’ll arrive), even if it’s bad (I’ll be late), is—at least for me—soothing and comforting, on both the macro and micro levels.

It’s long been said that knowledge is power–that’s kind of understood as an unbound concept, one of limitless possibility. The power of knowledge is equally valuable even when it’s a bounded thing. When you know something in a moment, or a situation…any small space, really, you have power…the power of choice, the power in choosing how you respond to that situation. When you’re in the black hole of uncertainty, you feel powerless, because you don’t know how to respond, because you don’t know what you’re responding to. But even in those moments, you need to find some absolute truth and find power in that moment…for example, you may find yourself waiting for results of a test of some sort, and your life could go in many different directions as a result…you could worry, you could wonder…you could plan for the worst…you could focus on the best…when really the only thing you know is that you don’t know…and that is when you need to choose…to breathe, just breathe…or to choose to go for a run or do something else, just because you can…and it’s really hard to wait, to wonder, not to know…but it is, really, easy to choose.

And that’s what Google Maps taught me.

(Oh…I got the job. A two-week consulting gig—you’d think Donald Trump named me as the newest Apprentice the way I’m acting! It’s a small step in the right direction—I’m choosing to celebrate the small victory!)


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