Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Saving Lives With Google Maps

On Saturday morning, the phone rang. My older daughter, Thing 1, immediately grabbed the phone, having seen that it was her favorite uncle (my younger brother) on the caller ID. My brother asked for me, but Thing 1 thought I was still in the shower so she told him I was not available.

Apparently my brother, E, felt that T1 could help him because I heard her say, “Hang on, let me turn on my iPod.” She then started fiddling around with her browser (it’s an iPod touch) and pulling up a website.

(I should point out, she was at the family computer at the time, accessing iTunes)

I heard her ask E for the name of the street he was on, and she then said she would find it on a map. She then asked him what street he was trying to find. At this point I realized my brother’s potentially tragic mistake: He was lost, and was relying on his 11 year old niece to help him find his way. Seeing as how my brother lives in Manhattan, unless he was a hundred miles from home, it’s not likely she would be able to locate any streets where he was, so I insisted she hand me the phone. I then sat down at the computer and pulled up Google Maps.

Me: So where are you?

E: 39th and Northern Blvd, Queens. I need to find the Queensboro Bridge to get back to Manhattan.

I found his intersection online, and told him to take a right on Northern, and it would take him right to the bridge.

E: OK, I’m heading that way now.

Me: OK, in a few seconds you should be passing Honeywell Street. Do you see it yet?

E: No, I just got out on the road, I only went half a block.

Me: You should be halfway there, bad traffic?

E: No, I’m riding a bike.

Me: A bicycle?

E: Yeah.

Me: You rode a bike across the Queensboro Bridge? To Queens?

E: Yeah. There’s a footpath across the bridge.

Me: *stunned silence*

E: I only live 3 blocks from the bridge, it’s not far.

E often does things that boggle my mind. He once bought a sofa that was too big to get into his apartment. He did the logical thing….rather than returning it, he and his friend cut it in half, moved it in two pieces, and then reassembled it using plates to join it back together. He once decided to go jogging with a friend. However, his friend was running in the NY Marathon at the time, so he waited for his friend to run by his intersection, and he ran out into the pack and ran with his friend. For 10 miles. When he got to where he needed to be, he stepped out of the pack and then called me to say “hi.”

And now he rode his bike from Manhattan to Queens. Which really isn’t far, but the idea of taking a bicycle into that kind of traffic, crossing a bridge, and then getting lost and having to call his brother 800 miles away, is just kind of odd.

But not as odd as thinking his 11 year old niece could help him out by pulling up a map of Queens on her iPod.


  1. Okay, I’ll be the first to ask what is presumably a foolish question: why didn’t he simply ask a pedestrian the way to the bridge? Is it a language problem, such as I would face if I tried to ask my way in Derby?

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  3. I cannot answer that question for Steve, Simon, but I suspect that it was the odds were 50/50 that he would not return with his bike had he asked a pedestrian.

  4. Simon, when I pulled up his intersection on Google Maps, my first question was, "Jesus....is there some kind of massive industrial complex next to you? Wait...is that a train yard?" To which he said, "huh? Oh, yeah, I guess there is a train yard there." I think he was in some commercial-industrial wasteland, and not too many people would walk around there on a Saturday afternoon.

    Or, as Ian said, he might not have relished the idea of walking back to Manhattan.

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