Monday, December 17, 2007

Naked Navigation

Patty here…

First of all, here’s a NakedAuthors holiday greeting from all of us to all of you. If clicking on the link doesn’t work, you may have to cut and paste. Trust me. It’s worth the effort just to see Jim Born and Paul Levine in elf slippers. Here's the link:

Onward. Over the weekend I was sorting through my expenses for 2007 and noticed that I’d driven over 2500 miles on Southern California’s highways and byways this year, visiting bookstores and speaking at various events. Most of the time I’m driving alone at night in unfamiliar territory. That’s why I have only one requirement in a car—it must have a navigation system. My current ride is German, and it has a nav system that uses a disembodied woman’s voice. My friend Karen Olson calls her “Sonja.” I call her She Who Must be Obeyed.

Sonja and I don’t always agree. She may be good at directions but I have my finger on the pulse of L.A. traffic. As a result, I sometimes make a turn she doesn’t like. I know this because after a moment of confusion, she will say in a tone that can only be described as clipped and authoritarian, “RECALCULATING!” (I guess you can take the girl out of Stuttgart but you can’t take the Stuttgart out of the girl.)

Sonja thinks she’s perfect, but she’s not. Sometimes her directions sound like a dachshund’s shrill bark, making it difficult to decipher if she wants me to turn left or right. Last Thursday, I was on my way to do a radio interview in Studio City. Sonja wanted me to go east on the 10 Freeway. It wouldn’t have been my choice, but to keep the peace, I complied.

“In two-tenths of a mile,” she said, “exit at La Cienega Boulevard.”

And there’s another of her flaws. She can’t pronounce La Cienega. She says, “La sin NAY ga instead of La see N ega. It’s irritating, because as many times as we’ve been down that road before (so to speak), she should know better by now. On the other hand, I appreciate her telling me “You have arrived at your destination” and on what side of the street the address is located. All of this reminds me once again that relationships are all about compromise.

All of the navigation systems I’ve ever heard use women’s voices. I find that curious because experience tells me men don’t like women telling them to “safely make a U-turn when possible.” So what gives? Do you guys secretly like back-seat driving or are you just looking for a little dominatrix action during those long, lonely commutes to and from work?

Maybe we entrepreneurial Nakeds should start a business of customizing the voices on navigation systems. We’ll call it Naked Navs. Voice Option 1: the kind and socially conscious voice of Our J, with the added bonus of that lovely British accent of hers, telling you to veer left and for the sake of the polar bears, shouldn't you really be driving a Prius? Voice Option 2: the James O, tough guy kick ass and drive safe or I’ll plug your book with my Glock sort of voice. Voice Option 3: Paulie’s wise-cracking directional patter that will keep you laughing even in the worst traffic snarls. As a bonus, it will also highlight all of the anti-war rallies along the route. Voice Option 4: Miss Cornelia’s hip, irreverent social commentary, advising you to “Hang a U-ey, Dude, and while you’re at it, let's load and listen to that CD of the Oranim Zabar Israeli Troupe, singing about the new highway from Beersheeba to Elath.” Voice Option 5: Me—at least I know how to pronounce La Cienega.

To pre-order, please press “comments” and leave your credit card number in the box to the right.

Happy Monday.


  1. Sonja's voice is so soothing, and so confident. I need a Sonja in my car. Especially at night, when I can't see street signs! But I've got a Honda, so perhaps the voice would not be so authoritative and I would have to bow when I got out of the car.

  2. Oh, dear, Patty, you should hear me in a car! Prius is not always a word that slips out when I'm stuck in traffic, or when some idiot is tailgating me (can't stand that - had one bad whiplash, don't want more). Mind you, I do have tend to scowl at Hummer drivers and I would love to get hold of those stickers that say, "I'm changing the climate, ask me how!" to splat onto the bumper of any mega SUV I see.

    I rented a car with a navigation system last year, and as I approached a huge intersection, absentmindedly said, "OK, now where do I go, clever clogs?" Just had me in stitches when She Who Must Be Obeyed immediately chimed in with a "Merge right."

  3. Karen, my previous nav-voice was in a Japanese car. She was very polite and she spoke slower so I always understand her directions. I miss her...

    Our J, I'm shocked shocked shocked, but trust me, you'd lose a mouth-off contest with me. I'm BAD.

  4. Patty, what does Sonja make of Sepulveda? Loz Feliz? Or if she were to try and find her way around South OC, Junipero Serra?

    My number one pick for a voice would be that of Placido Domingo. I'd follow him anywhere.

  5. Oh man, you sound like my parents. My dad just got his GPS and he says he'll follow it as long he thinks it's right. They used it the other night and apparently it said "RECALCULATING" a lot.

    He hasn't named her yet though.

  6. Patty, I don't know which is funnier -- that video or your Naked Nav Voices. What a howl.

    My nav system is named Lola, cause whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.

    She speaks through gritted teeth.

  7. Oh Patty, I don't know which is funnier -- that video or the Naked Nav Voices. What a howl.

    My nav system is called Lola, cause whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.

    She speaks through gritted teeth.


  8. "You have arrived at your destination."

    When I hear that voice, I'm damn sure the words will be accompanied by voracious flames, choking heat, and sulphurous fumes.

  9. Norby, I bet you could think of an appropriate name for that GPS nav voice. Think about it.

    Louise, didn't you just love Paulie and James O doing the Macarena?

    Paulie, you always make me laugh.

  10. Jeez, Mims, even I would have a problem with Junipero Serra.

  11. Probably my next gadget. Perhaps before my next tour.

    It wouldn't have helped me in L.A. last year.


  12. GPS voices always remind me of the old Eddie Murphy routine from around the time they first started having reminder announcements in cars.

    He said if his was going to be authentic, it should go, "You left the damn lights on... HEY! I said you left the m-fucking LIGHTS on! You blind *and* deaf?"

  13. Maybe Eddie Murphy should just accompany Jim on his next LA tour.

  14. Late, but loved the post. GPS is best electronic gadget to come along in ages--at least people don't bring them into restaurants and annoy you with thm as they do those @%**!!*# you-know-what! We got a Magellan and so call her "Maggie."
    An H. Rider Haggard fan, I see..., or Rumpole.