Planes, Trains, and Automobiles


Racing the GPS 

image via

The dashboard GPS has to be one of the greatest inventions ever.  I mean it is right up there with air conditioning and the baconator.  For one thing, if you have a GPS you never have to listen to your wife nag  suggest you stop and ask a stranger for directions (which might as well be the same as getting out of the car wearing a shirt that says: I am only 75% of the man you are).  This little device, though often frustrating , brings a certain calming quality to our marriage when I decide to take a short cut and dare veer off of the digital pink line of safety.  Sure, sometimes we follow our digital mate precisely and put an unhealthy amount of trust into it as we wind up cursing under our breath and turning around in vacant lots or wishing we were still on the paved road but all in all, it is pretty dang awesome.

I think that my favorite thing about our GPS is that on long drives it gives me a clear competitive objective.  When I am driving and using the GPS, all of the goals in my life boil down to one thing.  Beating the arrival time on the GPS.  It is almost embarrassing how much joy I derive from beating the GPS.  I say almost because the amount of awesome clearly outweighs any shame.  One of the great things about racing the GPS is that it re calibrates as you go so if you gain a minute, it will adjust giving you instant gratification.  I went on two separate business road trips this week and am happy to say that I beat the GPS each time.  There are a couple of ways that you can beat the GPS like catching green lights or light traffic, but the best way to win is by speeding.  I drive a lot, so as a byproduct I speed a lot.  I don’t mean driving reckless like a maniac but my cruise control is most comfortable at least 8 mph above the posted limit.  I don’t know why it is, but anytime I cross back into my home state I feel a sense of relief like the state troopers here will welcome me home as a favorite son and overlook my GPS racing.  This is stupid for several reasons, mostly because  I really only seem to get tickets in Georgia.

Driving can often be a long mundane tiring task, but beating the GPS can make it totally sweet.



If Only I had a Portable Infrared Sauna 

image via

Have you ever heard of a plane crashing because of an iphone?  Maybe missing the runway and landing in a river because of a Kindle?  No?  Funny, me either.  I know that in my house we have computers and cell phones and regular cordless phones and baby monitors all running at the same time with nary a glitch or disruption.  So here is the thing. I don’t think that safety has anything to do with the reason that we have to turn off all electronics before take-off and landing on a plane.  I think the real reason is Sky Mall.  Unless you bring your own material, the seat in front of you really only contains 2 pieces of reading material (assuming you don’t need to read the barf bag or evacuation instructions)  some boring airline magazine that really is just about restaurants in cities you aren’t on your way to, or Sky Mall.

Sky Mall has comandeered my attention more than once below 10,000 feet.  In fact, had I not read about it only a day before Mother’s Day, my wife may have been the proud owner of one of these:

Sit back and just say ahhhhh to in-home relaxation. Portable Infrared Sauna $399.99
image via Sky Mall

Something about flipping through Sky Mall makes me feel like I am severely lacking in iphone accessories, meerkat lawn statues, and pet car-seats.  Has anyone actually ordered anything from Sky Mall?  Perhaps a plush mini staircase for your little dog to climb up to your bed, or maybe packets of the first ever protein supplemented ketchup? I mean surely you are all getting your credit cards out to order one of these:

The Traveler’s Bed Bug Thwarting Sleeping Cocoon. $79.99
image via Sky Mall

You know, thanks to 20/20 and 60 minutes, that one may actually be a good idea.  I am sure there are folks out there that needed a bunion regulator or a generic Snuggie, I just doubt that Sky Mall is their retail destination.  Have you ever met anyone that works for Sky Mall?  Tell me that wouldn’t be the best job ever, getting to decide what makes it into the Christmas edition?  That actually may be my dream job.  I want to be in charge of all of the vendor’s submissions and test products in order to deem them worthy of mile high status.

Until then, I will continue to ask every flight attendant possible if they have ever seen one of these on an actual flight:

This person is able to sleep comfortably in any Seat! Can you say the same? Probably not, unless you have SkyRest. $29.95
image via Sky Mall

It looks like that guy is taking a restful snooze, but my guess would be that he passed out from exhaustion and light headedness after the 20 minutes it took to blow that thing up.  So far zero accounts of seeing one of these in person by any flight attendant I have ever asked.  I don’t know how much longer Sky Mall will be paying the airlines in order to gain a captive audience at the start and end of each flight, but until then I will participate in the flipping ritual and wonder if I need a hot dog toaster or one of those butler statue toilet paper holders.

It is funny to joke about after the fact but when you have to bring your chair to its upright position and lock your tray tables, the prospect of looking through a Sky Mall for the next 15 minutes is totally weak.



About Simon

I am a husband and a dad of two little girls. I am a lone Y chromosome and am already planning my escape strategy to deal with the estrogen flood that is on its way. People say there is a lot of joy to be found in the simple things and I have found they can provide a healthy dose of anti-awesome as well. I am, in general, a pretty optimistic guy and needed a bit of a creative outlet; so here it is. Thanks for stopping by. View all posts by Simon

53 responses to “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

  • Andrew

    2001: A Space Odyssey would have been a way better movie if they were just racing a GPS.

    • Simon

      All these Young punk GPS have no idea that they are on easy street, they all need to pay homage to HAL 9000 for paving the way for their success.

  • Michelle Gillies

    I love beating the GPS. I also love beating Mapquest, Bing Maps & Google Maps. They will all give you an estimated time of arrival for your trip. If it say 1 hour 45 minutes, I know I can do it in under 1 hour and 20. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to do do this.

  • SzaboInSlowMo

    GPS has greatly enhanced my life. I don’t know what I did without it. Even when I know where I’m going, I love trying to beat it somehow.

  • newsofthetimes

    This is hilarious – of course because it is so true! I laughed out loud a few times in the space of reading one post! Glad I found your blog and looking forward to more guffaws! 🙂

  • themiddlegeneration

    Hi Simon. Things have changed alot since the days my mom would hand me a map and designate me her chief navigator on our road trips. Now I don’t know what I would do without my GPS. Still, something takes me back to my childhood where I have to find a better route than “Florence” suggests and (I admit I do it too) beat the time she sets for arrival. The satisfaction I get from taking a shorter route and arriving even a minute earlier than predicted is totally sweet!

  • metan

    We are on our second GPS as the first one stopped talking to us. No, she wasn’t broken I think she just got jack of being ignored by the Man and went on strike.

    He seems to take great delight in getting me to program her and then does everything he can to ignore her directions. This can make for some quite interesting trips, especially with a caravan on the back!

    I am planning to secretly load the Darth Vader or Billy Connolly voice into it just to mess with him. 🙂

  • Brigitte

    HA! The GPS…where would I be without and how did I ever survive without it. I am hugely GEOGRAPHICALLY-challenged. I think what’s in front of me is North. Hubby can go somewhere once and find it again. Not me. I totally rely on GPS. (BTW, are males’ brains geared more on knowing/finding directions). Don’t mean to sound sexist, but seriously…love me some SkyMall. I’ve actually taken them off the plane, fully intending to buy the gadget that makes the ultimate smoothies and soups or the bed that promises to give you the best night’s sleep ever, but somehow after flight, they’re just not as interesting. I think it may be something they pump in that gross, recycled air that makes you want to look, buy, buy, buy from Sky Mall……

    • Simon

      I am also guilty of deciding to buy something from Sky Mall and then never follow through. I think that men might just be a little stubborn when it comes to asking directions and just figure it out eventually. But even when we do because we recognize a landmark or something, we will often look up into the sky and explain how we used the stars or the position of the sun to guide us.

      • Brigitte

        True that. Men’s brains seem to have that kind of wisdom plus a vast place for storing odd facts that I have no idea how they learned them or why they’re still in there. We can be watching a show on insects breeding in the Congo and my husband will know some weird factoid about it. When he relates these tidbits, I’ll tell him thanks, but I won’t remember this five minutes from now. So strange. :).

  • Don

    Great post, Simon. We’ve just got to have some competition in our lives, even if it’s with a GPS. You’ve given me a new idea of competing.

    I like that thing the guy is resting his head on. I fly quite often and man that thing looks good. The image just did something to me.

  • Jennifer

    Love it… last road trip we did we had fun trying to beat the gps – but towing a van made it somewhat awkward. Hubby flies for work regularly and thnakfully we don’t have skymall!!

  • Irene


    You make me laugh every time. I can relate to beating the GPS! You ever notice that a little traffic jam and BAM you are down another 5-10 mins. Once out of the jam and flying it seems forever to get the time back let alone beat the time?

    • Simon

      Totally! It is the bane of my existence when it goes backwards in traffic. I hate that. Thanks so much for reading Irene and for the kind words.

  • skippingstones

    Oh how I love to race the GPS! It gives me such satisfaction, like “IN YOUR FACE, GPS! I AM AWESOME!” But I never say it; I just get that shit-eatin’ grin that you get, you know? I want to win, but I don’t want to hurt GPS’ feelings and whatnot. You never know when it will turn on you.

  • cristycarringtonlewis

    Oh, man…I love the Sky Mall catalog. Okay, I’ve never bought anything in it, but I crave many of the uber-inventive items featured. No, the bed-bug cocoon wasn’t one of them, BUT I know of a friend who travels a lot who would snap that baby up in a matter of seconds.

    As far as the sauna goes, whatever you do, do NOT buy that for your wife…under any circumstances. Saunas suggest weight loss and by purchasing one for your wife, you are suggesting that she needs to lose weight. No one would find that contraption relaxing. It’s simply a water-loss facilitation system. Don’t do this to yourself unless you want zero sex until next Mother’s Day.

    I only say this because I enjoy your posts and your blogosphere friendship, so keeping you alive is in my best interest. 🙂

    • Simon

      Hmmm, I have never been a big fan of celibacy so I guess I should take your advice. I need to remember W.W.Y.D. When making decisions. Yoda (Cristy) will never lead me down the path to the dark side.

      • Stacie Chadwick

        Cristy TOTALLY has your back Simon. I, on the other hand, am a little fickle and prone to any catalogue item that promises gravity-defying body purification, and with enough tiny little vodka bottles on the plane, might actually order the portable infrared sauna.

        I’ve been trying to figure out a way to build a post around a barcalounger, and this one gives me great food for thought. =)

        • Simon

          Airplane bottles are without a doubt one of the most enjoyable ways to quench your thirst. I am looking forward to your post. I can imagine the hook now, something like “Lost Innocence in a Lazy Boy”

          • Stacie Chadwick

            I’m gonna work on the next one Monday and the barcalounger will DEFINITELY make an appearance. I’ll do my best to hook you with the title, then write about something completely different…. =p

  • tracylaneisnotavirgin

    ha! totally agree – I’d still be lost in some remote area of California if it weren’t for my gps…wish I could race my gps – LA traffic beats both of us everytime.

  • Audrey

    Sky Mall is pretty weak, although I have to say if you’re able to look through it with friends and laugh obnoxiously it can be totally sweet!

  • La La

    Shut up! Only $400.00 for that infrared sauna? I’m going to take it everywhere and use it every single day, so it’s well worth the money. Sign me up!

  • Julie

    “…the best way to win is by speeding.” I haven’t even finished reading your post yet because I am LOVING that statement so much. I want a T-shirt with that motto–or perhaps a nice embroidered throw pillow.

    • Simon

      You are awesome Julie. A throw pillow may be the way to go for sure or even some hand towels or something. Thanks for stopping by and your throw pillow is in the mail.

  • themeepingkoala

    Huh. You know, I thought the reason was so they’d put them away and that way if there was EXTREMELY EXTREME turbulence, their object wouldn’t go flying at a few hundred mph and smack someone in the head. Maybe that’s just me.

  • Lisa Smith Molinari

    When I am working at my computer and an e-mail comes in letting my know about your most recent post, it is the perfect excuse for me to stop working so I can read your latest stuff. Everyone should subscribe! I always get a kick out of your essays and totally relate. Speaking of which, I TOTALLY try to beat my Navigon and take complete joy in shaving a minute or two off my trip by speeding. This is much easier in the States, but when we were stationed in Germany (we are military) it was near impossible because their speed limits are ridiculously high. I managed to shave one minute off a 5-hour spring break drive to Venice but I had to gun my minivan up to 125 (the highest it will go without breaking up) on the straightaways. It was totally worth it.

    • Simon

      Wow Lisa, what a generous comment. I really appreciate you reading and boosting my ego. I think you need to write about the minivan that went 125. That is hilarious and awesome that you won the race. Bravo!

  • Maggie O'C

    I might need a bunion regulator. I don’t know what it is but it could be something I need.

    • Simon

      Thanks Maggie,
      This kind of mediocre underachieving attempt at humor doesn’t just magically happen every day. If you need a bunion regulator, I have the perfect catalog for you.

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