The female voice that lives inside my GPS is called, improbably, Serena. Perhaps this female persona was the fantasy of the German engineers who designed my personal navigation app. Or maybe the marketing people thought the name would inspire a sense of serenity.
When I had to choose between Serena and Henry, her male flatmate, I went with dulcet-toned Serena. Of the two, she seemed slightly less commanding.
Did I mention I have issues with authority?
My first impression is that she sounds nothing like a Serena to me. Her snooty British accent makes her seem far too well-schooled to be doing this job. And, having taken a trip or two together, I fear she must agree.
Although we are in France, Serena speaks English. If I have the option, I always pick the language this is least likely to cause confusion, or misinterpretation, to my English ears. This is especially true when it comes to getting from point A to point B. I am, as confessed before, geographically and spatially challenged, a condition that only seems to get worse with age. But because we are in France, and French-speaking Switzerland, I do expect her to have a minimal grasp of the lingo.
The problem begins as soon as we hit the road.
“Prepare to bear right,” announces Serena imperiously. The road stretches ahead in a straight line.
“I think you mean go straight,” I suggest, trying to be polite.
“Beware!” says that lady.
“Beware of what?” I ask. There is no danger that I can see.
“At the roundabout, take first exit.”
“You mean turn right?” I ask, squinting at the screen propped on my dashboard. You are not technically allowed to use a GPS on your phone while driving in France. Just in case you might be cheating by texting or checking your Facebook status, they make any use of a phone in a car illegal.
Thankfully I no longer have to face the road conditions shown in the picture above, which used to be part of my daily commute. But getting around France can be confusing, so I take all the help I can get.
“In 200 metres, prepare to turn left.”
Okay, that much I get.
“Prepare to turn left in 100 metres, onto LARUEDELAMARTINIERE,” anounces Serena blithely.
Her French pronunciation is a curve ball that catches me unaware. It bears no connection to French as I know it. What street does she mean? I glare at my screen but cannot see any name resembling her French with an English accent.
The road curves and I miss the turn.
“Now turn right onto CHEMINDELACHARBONNIÈRE.”
“Chemin de la what? Where did you learn to speak French?”
“Now turn right.”
“Wrong! It says do not enter.”
There is silence. I glance at my screen and see a straight arrow. It seems that Serena has strategically repositioned.
“At the roundabout, take the third exit.”
“You mean go left?”
“Take the third exit and continue onto the D93.”
“Whatever you say.”
“Now prepare to bear right.”
“Now bear right.”
“My god you’re a nag.”
“Turn right on RUDE LACHAINE.”
“Rude is right!”
“In 300 metres, you will have reached your destination.”
“What? You are seriously confused!”
“You have reached La Rue de la Résistance.”
“Ray-sis-tance?” I say, mocking her accent. “Listen, lady, this is France. You need to work on your accent.”
I look in my rear-view mirror and see a cop right behind me. Realizing he may be able to see me talking to my GPS, I put two hands on the wheel, activate the turn signal and proceed into the parking lot.
“Merci Serena!” I say, signing off. She says nothing, far too polite to say I told you so.
I have indeed reached my destination.
Do you use a GPS?