The first time I ever drove on the highway was the day I left home for college. I gripped the wheel, white-knuckled, and waited for my car to swiftly slide off the mountains of the Grapevine’s edge for the entire two and a half hours it took to drive myself and my room full of belongings in the infamous minivan. I spent the majority of my first year driving around during a time without regularly available smartphones as an inexperienced driver of only a year lost with an equally confused friend.
In fact, we got lost so often from not printing out directions ahead of time from MapQuest (not Google Maps) that we would jokingly call the mishaps adventures. The cellphones that we did have barely went on the internet, and when you did accidentally click the internet button, you had to click out really fast, or your mom would yell at you for racking up her bill. I could use my aging Chocolate LG sliding phone to make calls, take photos that looked like they were taken with a shoe, and play the highly-sought-after game of snake.
“Oh, we’re just on another adventure,” my friend would say after telling me to take a wrong turn. Of course, after the first wrong turn, there was no “re-calculating” of some powerful pocket computer. We were just lost.
On one occasion, my friend and I met up with some other people at this really cool local drive-in theater. We ended up watching a remake of a classic werewolf monster movie before heading back to the dorms. We had no problems getting to the drive-in theater, but on the way back, a bunch of on and off-ramps were closed to the major highway for construction. Concrete barriers and cones kept us moving forward, hoping for a turn in the direction of campus.
“We just keep going west,” my friend said a little panicked. She looked out the window to read the street signs for clues.
“I don’t know— call my boyfriend,” I said, still driving in the direction of the Pacific Ocean. I didn’t know what else to do.
“—But, where are you guys, though?”
I could hear my then boyfriend’s frustration over the phone. There was always something crazy going on whenever my friend and I would call him. He couldn’t do much for us and just sighed and then wished us luck as I drove off into the dark abyss for miles after staring at werewolves for hours.
I think it was another half hour before we were able to turn back around that night. I have since become a far better navigator. I started paying attention to my surroundings more and not getting lost the instant we made a wrong turn. However, a smartphone would have had us avoiding all of the insane places we ended up in our Freshman year.
If you’re reading this, then you have access to the internet. We have the tools in our hands to make life easier, to connect with one another, and share ideas. Especially now, with everyone holding up in their homes, technology has become the tool that is keeping us united. This situation is obviously not ideal. This pandemic has made me miss out on a lot of things, but it did force me to connect face-to-face with friends and family every day. This all sucks, and these uncertain times are scary. However, it REALLY would have sucked if this happened back when I was poking people on Facebook, hanging tacky wall flair, and getting lost so many times that I started to memorize the entire layout of LA County accidentally.
There is still so much we can do during these troubling times. You can use our rapidly developing technologies to create, learn, and be entertained. I could have used an upgraded phone for safety reasons back then if it was available to me, but I can use one now to group FaceTime friends while I’m drinking wine and making pan-fried tofu on my skillet. You can utilize it too to build something and reach out to others.