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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Verizon GPS Lady: Can She Tell the Future?

So my sister and I are barrelling along Route 76, heading east toward Akron. Mary's Verizon service includes a GPS set-up via which the Robot Lady not only tells us where to turn but also advises us of, say, "Congestion ahead in 6 miles." Suddenly, around 5 p.m., she pipes up, "Two-hour-and-10-minute delay ahead." No other information, no reason for the delay.

We figuratively scratch our respective heads, wondering about the possible cause, but she hadn't given a cause, just that there would be that delay in our travel. We figured there was some major problem in Akron, but Akron came and went (or, rather, we continued our brisk progress) without incident. We continued our planned route on 76, still heading east, and decided to stop for dinner in North Jackson, Ohio. It was yummy, and we returned to the car, driving a ways to get to Route 80 and then turning to head east again. Driving continued uneventfully on Route 80 until, wups! At 7:12, all traffic heading east in both lanes pulled to a halt. We sat there a bit. What the heck? Eventually, people began getting out of their cars to find out what was going on - and we learned that, about a quarter of a mile ahead of us, a semi trailer had flipped over, blocking both eastbound lanes. And we sat. Police cars eventually drove by us on the berm. The sun set. We sat. Cars and trucks eventually turned off motors. We sat. People wandered by, going to look at the truck and to see what the prognosis might be, eventually returning to report that we were in for quite a wait. I pulled out my Garmin to locate exactly where we were: past the Route 11 exit and just past the Bell Wick Road overpass.

At 8:50 p.m. a tow truck traveled up the divider between eastbound and westbound lanes. We applauded and continued to wait.

And suddenly, at 9:06 p.m., everyone turned on their lights, started their engines, and we were on our way, glancing at the semi, which was lying on its side in the left lane.

So here's the question: How the heck did the Verizon Robot Lady know that we were in for what she foresaw as a more-than-two-hour delay because of an accident that didn't happen for another couple of hours? And, given her foresight, why had her timing been off by about 15 minutes?

No, that's quibbling. Verizon can take justifiable pride in her accomplishments. Do you suppose this was a test of a new phone service: prognostication for an additional $10 a month?


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