North by Northwest

by Crom

It’s been some time since the classic r4nt paradigm was unleashed on you all, and perhaps some hoped that the fickle beast had been slain and we were all bound to enjoy peace and prosperity for the rest of our lives. Well guess again Sherlock, I’m breaking the old r4nt technology out of the cedar chest and busting an editorial cap in the ass of another victim.

Mapquest et al.

Any and all of the ilk that are on-line map and direction engines: You all suck, plain and simple. I knew that mapquest was all fucked up a long time ago, when I was working in the states, because on more then a few occasions the directions that I received from the site were so far off base that I actually ended up wasting hours of time, but now they all suck ass. For instance, I was once sent in the exact opposite direction of where I needed to go in Houston. Literally they printed the direction in the opposite go, it said ?Go north? the direction should have been ?Go South? I drove for an hour before stopping because everything looked totally off base. The guy who ran the gas station I stopped at looked at me like I was some sort of retarded monkey, the only thing in the direction I was heading, was Lake Minawebakckak (or some shit) which was 4 hours away, he turned me around and from that point I followed the opposite advice of the directions, which led me right to my destination. One would think that this kind of slip wasn’t the norm, however on 3 more occasions I came across directions that led away from my destination instead of towards. Really handy for me, when I live in another country and have no friggin’ clue where I’m going. But it all came to a head the other day.

I was taking my grandfather to the doctor. He’s 92 years old, so he spends a significant amount of time there. I got my directions from the website map engine. The address was 803 – 1st Ave. N.E., and it didn’t even enter my brain while looking at it, but the directions told me to go north from 16th ave. Now, I’m in the north already, so if I go north from 16th, I am going to be INCREASING the street numbers, not decreasing them. Essentially I went in the opposite direction of the instructions I received, and then had to rely on my grandfathers memory ( he remembered where it was perfectly, he’s a marvel I tell ya). After that I just looked for 1st ave. and just drove down it till I reached 8th st. which is good, because if this had been a named street, I would have been boned. I still got him there on time, which is good. But honestly, Mapquest at least has the excuse that it’s not based in Canada, so a fuck up on a Canadian map does have some credibility, but that was the Alberta main website for christ sake, there’s only 4 major places IN this province. Were I looking for some obscure hamlet on the western side of Rocky Mountain House then I wouldn’t really be surprised if things were off base, but this is the largest city in the god damn province, WTF.

The only thing I can assume is truly giving them problems would be the contextual nature of the address field. People can put all sorts of stupid shit in there when they input the address. I usually use the abbreviated versions of Avenue, Street, and city quadrant, but I can only imagine some of the stuff people put there.

?Furst Street and Neintee-aith avinyou Sowth Weist?

If that actually showed up sometime I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest, anybody whose looked at the writing on a bathroom stall in the last few years has realized that almost no one can spell anything without the benefit of MS Word. But still even if somebody gets creative with the way they spell avenue, you would think the engine would just ask them to correct themselves if it couldn’t understand. Although even in moments of total clarity it has still led people astray. I don’t really know what else to tell you, save that should you ever need directions, take the information given to you by these things with a grain of salt, because it’s entirely possible that while you’re looking for the post office, you’ll end up in the morgue.

I mean you’ll drive there, you won’t be dead or anything…

  • North by Northwest
  • by Crom
  • Published on October 1st, 2004

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