Guide for the perplexed

August 28, 2015 by Michael Kuttner
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It is hard to imagine but it was not that many years ago when one had to consult printed maps in order to work out how to drive from home to one’s destination.

Michael Kuttner

       Michael Kuttner

As a youngster (and that was certainly many years ago) I remember my father pouring over maps purchased from the Automobile Association in order to plan the best route to take for our annual vacation. In those days in New Zealand the options were rather limited as the extensive network of motorways and by-pass roads had not yet been constructed. Getting from Wellington to the countryside via main and then secondary roads was a logistical feat which required meticulous planning beforehand. It wasn’t only the actual route but also the availability of petrol stations and rest facilities which had to be noted. Our ancient Hillman car (now an ancient relic of the prehistoric era) could only manage a relatively modest speed and laden down as it always was with everything including the kitchen sink and food worthy of a long siege, this annual task of logistical complexities proved a challenging exercise.

It used to be a thrill to be able to be in charge of the map and read out the instructions as we proceeded on our way. As each signpost was reached and successfully navigated the knowledge that we were still heading in the right direction towards our destination vindicated all that homework we had done weeks previously.

The only major problem occurred when we realised that unbeknown to the authors of the map, the Ministry of Works had decided to divert traffic because of road reconstruction or repairs. Or more often than not, work had been completed on a new road extension which of course was not noted on the map we were using. The fact that maps became obsolete at regular intervals made navigating towards one’s destination a hazardous and unreliable exercise.

Until not so many years ago, before the advent of GPS and smart phones, this problem still existed. After we made aliyah in 1991 we purchased a comprehensive road map of Israel and this was for many years our guide and constant companion. Apart from vacations we found that it was a vital necessity in finding our way to events in parts of Israel which were completely unknown to us. Wedding invitations routinely arrived with rudimentary directions on how to get to the simcha. These instructions I must add were totally useless in most cases and often caused more confusion than enlightenment. Venues ranging from wedding halls in main cities to beautifully lush locations on a Kibbutz or Moshav in places we had never heard of had us studying our maps for weeks beforehand in order to work out the quickest and best way to arrive there.

The problem, as in previous years, was that changes, new roads, diversions and hazards were unknown. Therefore having commenced our journey and running into one of the problems aforementioned we had to rely on guesswork and a hefty dose of good luck in order to find our way to the venue concerned. Even after getting within striking distance of the place we still had to work out the exact approach which sometimes meandered through a Kibbutz or secondary road. Our return journey home was no less fraught with uncertainty because first of all we had to find our way onto the main highway and then hope that all was clear from then on.

Likewise finding a hall in the city was also a logistical challenge. Not all maps showed small streets and with the advent of one way streets and roundabouts it was almost impossible to actually work out the best approach. As many places do not have numbers clearly marked and often street signs are hard to read when one is concentrating on the traffic it was a stressful and frustrating experience.

So much for the “good old days.”

Today we are blessed with technology which makes navigation a breeze and makes one wonder how we managed previously. Israel which is a leader in high tech. development has revolutionised life in so many fields. WAZE, the world’s largest traffic and navigation application is just one example of this. Downloading it to the electronic device of your choice enables you to travel anywhere relatively hassle and stress free and believe me given the often manic behaviour of some drivers this is a definite plus. Not only are we now able to choose the quickest way to our desired destination but we are warned of accidents and traffic jams along the way. The ability to avoid potential delays before leaving home has revolutionised traveling. Even if one is alone there is no need to scan a map on the screen. All that is needed is to listen carefully to the disembodied voice (male or female) instructing you in the language of your choice. Every roundabout, access and exit to and from motorways plus a multitude of other advice is freely available and contributes to a relatively hassle free trip.

On the odd occasion when someone decides to ignore the directions because they think they know better or because they do not believe the warnings they have soon discovered that WAZE was indeed correct. I have taken rides with such drivers and our journey took twice as long as it should have.

The advantages of this navigation tool were amply demonstrated a week ago when we had to make our way to Bnai Brak for a wedding. Before we left home we turned on WAZE in order to work out which of several routes was going to be the best. The wedding was scheduled for 5.30pm but based on past experiences we knew that in fact it wouldn’t start until 6.30pm at the earliest. Nevertheless this was still within the rush hour traffic zone and expectations of heavy traffic and delays. We followed the advice given and proceeded confident in the belief that our navigation device would guide us safely to our destination. Well before our targeted exit from the motorway we were gridlocked in slow-moving traffic with our female guide advising us that traffic was heavy. There is nothing more amusing than to be sitting in a jam with a voice announcing that delays can be expected.

The return trip home was equally challenging but thanks to our trusty electronic guide we managed to avoid the worst of the traffic by diverting onto alternative roads, thus saving us a frustrating bumper to bumper crawl. The ability to predict problems and calculate alternative routes is a time saver and beats the old printed map system hands down.

I cannot resist the obvious political analogy.

As one insane and inane pronouncement after another on Iran issues forth from the mouths of world leaders the possibility of wiring WAZE into their addled brains becomes ever more appealing. The spectacle this week of the British Foreign Secretary burbling that Iran can become a partner in fighting terror while he opens the British Embassy which still carries graffiti calling for death to England, makes one wonder if the lunatics have indeed taken over the asylum. Bearing an uncanny physical resemblance to Neville Chamberlain, Mr. Hammond discerned that the world’s biggest supporter of terror groups seemed to be moderating its opposition to Israel. How devoid of any intelligence this observation was became clear when an Iranian official subsequently declared that Israel’s demise still remained at the top of their agenda.

It is obvious that with Obama and Kerry setting the standard, the rest of Europe and of course Russia & China are dazzled by the headlights of unlimited trade given the billions which will be pouring into Iranian coffers. As the rest of the world hurtles headlong down a dead-end road, the politicians driving this insane agenda certainly need to listen very carefully to what WAZE is telling them:



Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.

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