Shirley Harring

writer, farmer advocate, madwoman

Automated Navigation Systems

April 2, 2009

I have a GPS in my car.

I have the voice command option set to Karen, who is happy to direct me around the roads using a British English dictionary for pronunciation, using an Australian accent. (What’s with that? We don’t have an accent – right?) 

I have other options of course. Apart from a variety of multilingual voices, the other primary option is Lee, Karen’s partner in crime, who also speaks with an ‘Australian’ accent.

His voice gives me the irrits. 

I found myself wanting to throw him out the window when he would pompously instruct me to make a U turn now in the middle of a six lane highway.  No sense at all. Besides, there is something quite condescending about being told where to go by a male, even if he is virtual and holds the map in his hands. Anyone worth five cents knows males don’t use maps and rely on instinct to get lost  find their way around, so not only does Lee irritate me but he is just not trustworthy.


The Sparky owns a Navman. He chooses a female voice too. (See? Even he doesn’t trust an Aussie male with a map).  His Lolita does more than Karen, she beeps at traffic lights and speed cameras. He knows it’s illegal for Lolita to do this, but he can’t figure out how to turn her off (I could offer something here, but won’t) and anyway, being female she is clever enough to read maps AND watch the lights.

My mother has a Tomtom. She prefers a male companion, and her and Tom (of course) have found their way around tricky parts of the State together on many a dark and windy night. She says, though, he sulks when you don’t do exactly what he tells you to. He just stops speaking to her and stares glumly through the illumination screen until he’s ready to add another direction from his helpful list.

A friend’s husband recently purchased a new car with a built in GPS. The first time my friend was allowed to drive it herself,  was on a day trip to a country town, transporting girls to basketball finals. Her teen daughter, sitting in the passenger seat was struggling to get the righteous British accented Lloyd to accept the arrival destination, so she rang home to get husband to explain how to get Lloyd working properly. The British voice refused to co-operate no matter what input was given, and the husband was finding himself frustrated as he was getting feedback from the friend, the teen daughter and the righteous Lloyd, all down the telephone line.

In desperation, teenager re-programed the GPS to an Australian accented Mary, who calmly tells all three of them exactly where to go. This is then followed by series of alarm bells from the GPS. Husbands’ voice comes over the phone line: “And tell your mother to stop speeding“. It seems that this Aussie Mary cannot only read maps, watch lights, look for cameras, but also has the ability to keep to the speed limit.

We’ve been doing that for years.

Navigation systems. Soon, they’ll be driving the car, and we’ll be able to sleep through the ride and arrive at our destination unharried. And we can get back to telling each other where to go.


  1. LOL!

    I have a TomTom… who has not only directed me all over the eastern coast of Australia, but also through the entire British Isles and parts of Western Europe… all in the voice of Austin Powers.

    My boys and I can’t resist Austin. It’s all the in the message we get when we reach our destination…

    “You have reached your destination! Groooo-vy Dri-ving! Yeah!”

    Oh and the toll warning:

    “Congestion Charge ahead…. Damned Evil Cunning!”


  2. What an enjoyable post. I have a Tom Tom and chose the British female voice who sounds quite BBC. I did not think I could cope with navigating to the sound of John Cleese’s voice. I have enough trouble working out what the hell they mean without being distracted by the accent. When I have disregarded her instructions, or, more likely, made a mistake (two disastrous trips last week) the voice tells me to turn around when possible. Ha!

  3. *hahaha*

    Great post – we don’t have a GPS, yet. We need one for here in the UAE – just as long as the voice isn’t Arabic I think we’d be okay…

  4. I love the sound of Mary!

    I have Eric the tom tom man. British. Tells me the name of streets. Has trouble with many Australian street names and suburbs.

    Capalaba would put him in a right twist.

  5. How I love Tom, He is the first male to enter my life since the demise of my husband. But…; oh how different it is, I can actually tell him to shut up when he is wrong(hehe). Tom takes me to dinner dates & theatres & boozy Red Hatter parties, & gets me home safely. No groping hands, no alcoholic kisses, no demands on my beautiful 75 yr old body. How I love my Tom.

  6. Hahahahahaha

    I loved this post!

  7. Laughing at Izahadit.

    We have the Garmin, but it can’t find our house! Keeps saying our address ‘doesn’t exist’. In order for it to work, we have to choose an address about a mile away as the starting point.

  8. We have a navman……… and he tells you when you are speeding too. lol

  9. Don’t have a car (they have issues with legally blind people in charge of deadly lumps of metal) but I’m getting the urge to buy a sat nav just to play around with Tom, Mary, Lloyd and Karen.
    I’m sure I’ll be able to tell every one of them where to go 😛

  10. LOL! My husband used to have a Road Angel whose voice was recorded by Peter Brock (his hero). After Brockie was killed, listening to it broke DH’s heart and it was packed away until he can deal with his grief in another 5 years.

  11. Interesting and funny…and like Persiflage, I’d find it hard to be directed by John Cleese too. I’d feel like Polly or Manuel.

  12. Enjoyed this post. Have no Sat Nav, with any accent at all. Just me, calling instructions from the UBD, to some deaf old GOM. *Sigh*

  13. I’m the old fashioned kind of GPS that needs to pull over to study the map while yelling at the kids to keep quiet so that I can concentrate and hope to get ourselves wherever we need to be going. Your method sounds far more exotic!

  14. We have none of this, just the old fashioned computer and mapquest. Goodness. I feel so old fashioned.

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