i’ll turn if i want to, Richard

My husband got me an awesome gift for my 40th birthday. It’s a GPS for my car.

I spend a lot of time in my car driving to unknown destinations. For the last six years, I’ve been a home party lady. I have been in more homes in more subdivisions in more suburbs than you can possibly imagine.

So, my sweet husband thought the GPS would be a great way to help me get around. And while I’m generally really good at finding my way, it would help avoid those occasional phone calls of, “Honey, I think I made a wrong turn. Can you go on MapQuest and figure out where I am?”

I love the GPS. It’s really fun to have around. But I have to admit that, lately, Richard, the voice of my GPS, and I haven’t exactly been seeing eye-to-eye.

My trips always start out the same. I type in the address of my destination. Then, I tell myself: “No matter what Richard suggests, I’m going to do it. I want to see which way he tells me to go.”

Then I pull out of my driveway, and the conflict begins.

“Turn left, and then take the second right.”

Umm, Richard. You should know by now that I like to turn right to get out of my subdivision. I know you want me to stay on the major streets, but it IS a little faster, I sigh.

I relent and go his way.

I start cruising through town on my way to the tollway. And I wait.

Richard, I really need to turn left up here. Don’t you remember the shortcut?! Richard, if I keep going straight, I’m going to hit five stoplights. There are no stoplights this way. It’s much faster.

My heart starts pounding as I get into the left turn lane. What is he going to say now? I’m making an unauthorized turn! Can’t his memory chip learn that I want to turn here?! He’s quiet. And then, he comes back to life.

“After 500 yards, turn right.”

Whew! He readjusted.

I keep going my way, and Richard is silent for several miles. He lets me go through stop signs and past major roads and he doesn’t say a word.

I know what he’s thinking:

“I told you to go straight back there, and you didn’t listen.”
“Why do you even turn me on if you aren’t going to do what I tell you?”
“Why don’t you just go back to using Susan?”

I’ll admit it. When I got the GPS, it came with the pre-set voice of Susan. Something about her bossing me around was even worse than Richard. I know this makes a serious statement about my gender relations, but I’m not sure what it is. I switched to Richard because he has a calm, but firm, voice. I felt like I could trust him.

Finally, he wakes up and gives me another order.

“After 500 feet, turn left.”

I get in the left turn lane and look down. Richard’s battery is dead. Great. Right when I really needed him! I start searching for the car adapter and get him plugged in just in time for the next direction.

I follow his commands the rest of the way, with only a few minor adjustments. But I start thinking about why he makes me so irritable.

Maybe if he would just couch his statements a little. You know. He could say, “You might want to turn in about 500 feet.” Or, “I know you have several choices right now, but I would suggest a right turn.”

Maybe if he would give me the big picture and explain why he thinks this way is best. “I have researched all of the options, including your short cut through the forest preserve and this way will save you 2.5 minutes,” he could say in his monotone voice.

Maybe then, I would be more inclined to listen.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’m just too strong-willed to own a GPS.

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the helicopters are here!

“Mom, Dad! Come outside! Quick! The helicopters! They’re flying over our house!”

No, way! I was thinking. Could this be it?

“Mom! Dad! What is it?! Why are the helicopters flying over our house?”

My husband’s first reaction was to turn on the news. Sure enough. This was the day that — like so many other people in our town — we hoped would one day come.

They arrested him.

I think the entire town was breathing a sigh of relief as people stood outside with their necks craned to the sky, watching the loud news helicopters spin their massive blades. It’s hard not to feel just a little bit happy when you live just a few neighborhoods away from one of the most notorious men in America. Really. I don’t even want to write his name.

But when the camera crews are in the area, it’s usually about him. For the last year and a half, reporters have spent a lot of time filming life on his odd little cul de sac. I can’t imagine the tension of living on that circle.

The next door neighbor has a huge monument in her front yard with an enormous photo of his missing wife. Signs with large photos are posted in each front lawn, asking, “Where is Stacy?”

“What’s going on?! What’s it all about?” our kids continue to ask.

Oh, they just want to take some pictures of a house over there.

“But, WHY?!”

A guy lives over there who did something he shouldn’t have.

What, really, do you tell your kindergartner in a situation like this?

The bigger question in my mind has always been, “What does HE tell HIS kindergartner?”

What does his little boy think when he walks to school every morning past the photos of his mom, who he hasn’t seen for more than a year? What does he think when people cross to the opposite side of the street to avoid his dad?

The youngest of the two children from his marriage to Stacy is in kindergarten at the school down the street. Two older children living in the house are the kids of his third wife, who was found dead in her bathtub in 2004.

What DO you tell those kids when their mom disappears? What do you tell them when the helicopters are circling overhead? What do you tell them when the state police take Daddy away?

Our neighbor makes himself the subject of widespread contempt around town with the arrogant and rude statements he constantly makes to the media. But my mind always rushes back to that kindergartner. And I wonder who is there with him when the helicopters are flying over the house.

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