Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
My husband has a new lady friend. He shares her with our three sons, who are also sweet on the most recent family acquaintance. They are, in a word, enamored.
Under normal circumstances, I might feel threatened - what with my four guys throwing their rapt attention toward another woman's voice - but these aren't normal circumstances.
That's because the woman in question, we call her "Carmen," isn't a female in the true sense of the word. She has no arms or legs. Her body, if you can call it that, appears nondescript and rectangular, anchored by a round, rubber, suction-cupped base.
She possesses an admirable brain, and her full-color touch screen is a little intimidating. But, Carmen's main claim to fame is her voice. It is distinctive, feminine and authoritative.
Carmen is our new GPS navigation device; in other words, a computerized gizmo that works like an old-fashioned map - only better. Carmen connects with satellites in outer space, downloads information, and gets us from Point A to Point B using state-of-the-art voice commands that leave most men wanting just one thing: more.
After an unscientific quiz of my friends, I've found that the majority of families name their GPS devices. It seems that something with a female voice - even something as small as a 4 by 2-inch touch screen - warrants attention worthy of a name. I'm not sure how we settled on Carmen, but it fits.
Carmen can tell us how to get where we are going, how fast we are going, and exactly when we will get there. If we have a hankering for a certain type of fast food - say chicken originating from the state known for horses and derbies - Carmen can tell us the location of the nearest restaurant.
She would never consider stopping to ask for directions. As I said, my boys are enamored.
Why wouldn't they be? With Carmen, we have a woman (if you can call her that) who meets the definition of directional flexibility. If and when we do make a wrong turn, it thwarts Carmen not. She doesn't pass blame or judgment. She doesn't shake her head or roll her eyes. (She wouldn't, even if she had them.) She just fixes our mess with a distinctive, one-word directive: "Recalculating."
My husband explained his respect for Carmen in this regard. "She's always calculating," he said. "I like a calculating woman."
He's telling the truth. And I think there's even more to it than that. Despite what they may claim otherwise, my boys like a woman who tells them where to go and what to do. It frees them up to think about more important things, like arriving at their destination.
Arriving provides the purpose for Carmen's existence, and she seems to know this. Upon arrival, Carmen's vocal charm rises to a new level. Whereas Carmen has, up until this point, been the voice of authority, arriving brings about a rare display of emotion. When you make your final turn and approach your desired site, Carmen announces with an uplifted hilt, "Arriving at your destination."
The arc and tenor in her voice when reciting the word "destination" alludes to a feeling of computerized joy. Even if you were arriving at the dentist for a much-dreaded root canal, Carmen would be delighted to get you there. That means something. Carmen is a woman with a purpose. You've got to admire that.
After a recent family vacation, my second-grader expressed his appreciation of our GPS device.
"I love Carmen," he said. "Not love, love; but love like I'm glad she came with us to Florida and told us how to get there." He paused and then added, "And, her voice sounds nice."
You've got to hand it to Carmen; she is directionally smart and has information coming from very high places. Plus, she's got my four boys wrapped around her little finger. Well, she would - if she had fingers.
Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and award-winning freelance writer working with graphic designer Nikki Willgohs to provide writing and design and other marketing services to businesses and individuals. You can check out their Web site at http://marketing-by-design.home.mchsi.com/, or e-mail Jill at