This week, as Dolly and Jethro and everybody who lives and breathes news and traffic here in River City has been telling us for days and weeks and months ad nauseum, I-40 will be closed down right in the heart of ourfaircity. Oh, I’m sure you seen all the big-assed signs, plastered everywhere. And, every day there’s been more interstate lanes that moved overnight, and even more signs, and flashing lights. All telling us "oh the change is a-comin’, for true!" And for most of us locals it’s going to be okay. Mostly. Okay, sometimes, maybe. But there’s a factor that I don’t think anyone put into this equation. I thought of this while driving home from westknoxco on Saturday. There’s a wildcard in this that has the potential to spoil all their big plans. There’s a saying "never build anything foolproof, because fools are amazingly ingenious." And that’s what’s about to happen with Smartfix-40. Nobody has come up with a plan to address the reality that approx. 1 in 10 cars is now being piloted by GPS units. Yeah, GPS units that do not automagically update. GPS units that will be woefully out of date when this closure becomes reality. Hmm, yeah, you didn’t know that those things don’t automatically load new maps, all on their own? Um no. They don’t. Not even the really nice ones in rental cars. And I know that because I drove a Hertz Escalade through a lake, according to the GPS when we went to Florida in 2006. Yeah, you know you drive off that thing too. You know you’re living and dying by the melodious voice of GPS Barbie, and when she says "turn left here", you do. And if she doesn’t tell you to exit, you don’t. I watch people doing it all the time. Hell, we do it too. And neither of our GPS units have ever been updated, ever.
Don’t believe me? Let me paint you a picture. A picture that will be repeated many times a week over the next 14 mos. See, there’s this minivan, coming from points west, with 5 kids in the back, headed for the beach. As that van passes all those artfully designed and informative signs, the driver is busy screaming "don’t make me stop this car young man" as he or she stares in the rearview mirror, giving the glare of doom to two kids fighting over a Transformer that somehow now resembles an alien marital aid. Now, obviously there’s some distraction here, and all those informative signs are honestly the last thing on anybody’s mind in that van. Sadly, they’re the last thing on GPS Barbie’s mind too, since she hasn’t had her maps updated since you bought her for hubby for Christmas last year (or the year before, or the year before that). So, guess what? That van, with that cute little family, is about to be thrown onto James White Parkway, and then turning onto Summit Hill, doing a rolling visit past Walter P. Taylor Homes and various other areas that Triple A and the Chamber of Commerce do not feature in their glossy brochures and guidebooks to beautiful and charming Knoxvegas, while that cute confused family attempts to safely navigate their way back to I-40 at the Cherry Street exit. The sound of Summer 2008 folks? Oh it’s going to be a voice that isn’t from around here saying "where the hell am I?" and the clunk of electric locks as they realize that technology isn’t always the answer, but it sure can make the questions a lot more interesting. Have fun with that TDOT!