We downloaded an app in Holland called NavFreeNL and it worked so great that when we got to Spain we downloaded NavFree Spain. NavFree speaks to us with a very refined female British accent so we have named her Edith after a dear friend in Northern England who is intelligent and extremely well organized. We have quickly discovered that the GPS Edith is none of these things. In fact, the GPS Edith is slow, dim witted and couldn’t find quicksand if she where buried to her neck in it. And to make matters worse she’s a big fat liar.
Recently we were going to an intercity address in Bilbao to meet a friend of a friend. I transferred the address from my notebook into the phone and Edith led the way. Edith, being a little slow, has a tendency to point out exits just after you have passed them so working with her requires quite a few uturns, but this country has a lot of roundabouts so we have learned to compensate. We’re just like the Griswolds in European Vacation.
No matter, we have made it to Bilbao and have begun winding our way through the narrow streets in the old town. Only now the streets are getting narrower and with the height of the buildings we find ourselves in passageways that the sun never reaches. The doorways and alleys are filling up with pimps and streetwalkers. The police presence has increased.
We are clearly not in Kansas anymore and everyone is staring at us like we are foreign missionaries who have been beamed in from an alien church social. It feels as though people are slowly beginning to encircle the car. Right in the middle of this seedy decaying urban jungle our anxiety level has reached DefCom 5 when Edith proudly announces, “You have reached your destination.” Wendi, who’s a little nervous at this point, turns and says, “Bruce, get me out of here. NOW.” A few rights, a couple lefts, we burst out into the sunlight and find ourselves on a narrow passage that runs along the bank of the river. I’m not even sure it’s a road, most probably a pedestrian walkway, but we won’t be turning back at this point. Up ahead I see two well dressed men holding leather notebooks, talking with each other and pointing towards a dilapidated storefront and I think, architects or maybe developers, but clearly educated. I pull up next to them, roll down the window and say in the calmest voice I can muster, “Do you speak English?”. NO!
Undeterred I thrust my notebook at them gesturing wildly at the address written on the page. They take the notebook, study the address and begin to have a discussion about it. Two very scruffy North Africans wander over from a park bench and join the conversation. Now a nasty looking street person with some kind of psychotic disorder staggers up and stands a little off to one side keeping a close eye on the strange activities.
The four men are all passing my notebook around and talking at the same time as they gesture wildly. The whole group is doing a sort of dance now as they keep turning in complete circles clearly looking for some sort landmark or escape route perhaps. Finally, they all stop talking. One of the black men takes my notebook, leans into the car window and in absolutely perfect British School English says, “I am very sorry Sir, we don’t really know where this is, but it is not near here”. He then, very precisely, lays out a long and circuitous route that will take us across a bridge to the other, far more civilized, side of the river. Where we clearly belong.