Monday, October 01, 2012

MUSE -- The 2nd Law Has Dropped -- It's Madness ...

Google Maps Saves My Marriage (After Apple Maps Tries Its Best to Destroy It!)

No, I am not piling on here.  This is not a “replacement ref” post.  In fact, I hate following conventional narratives. 

But, the cold hard fact is that the headline is true.  And, I experienced this reality in all of its glory – and in all of its pain (depending on who’s camp you’re in) – this past Friday night.  Let me explain.

I work hard.  I love what I do.  I feel fortunate doing it.  But, my family comes first.  Always has.  Always will.  So, certain family events – like birthdays, anniversaries – are sacred to me.  I never miss them. 

Only, this year I did.  I missed my wife’s birthday a few weeks back due to a business trip.  I also missed our anniversary which falls within the same week).  I tried to move mountains, but couldn’t.

Now, to be clear – my wife, Luisa, never …  EVER … gives anyone (including me) a hard time for this kind of thing.  Stuff happens.  She “gets” that more than anyone I know.   She understands how life works sometimes … and that it is what it is.

But I don’t.  It kills me.

This gets me back to the here and now.  As I said, I missed my wife’s birthday and our anniversary.  So, I scheduled a “replacement” birthday and anniversary weekend escape for the two of us this weekend in my city of San Diego.  The only problem was that as of Friday night, I was in a major East Coast city … and my business meeting ended only at 5 pm … and my flight back to the West Coast was scheduled for 7:30 pm … and I had a rental car, that I had to drive 50 miles … through this major city to the airport … and IT WAS POURING RAIN during this rush hour!  Yes, Friday night rush hour!

Listen, I am an optimist, but that changed quickly as we hit – or, better said, tried to hit – the on ramp to the Interstate that ultimately would lead us to the promised land of planes.  Gridlock.  No movement.  None.  There was no way.  Mission Impossible.  And, that is coming from a guy (me) who always believes there is a way. 

Not this time. 

Enter my two partners in crime – Sorenson Media’s COO Eric Quanstrom and VP Biz Dev/Strategy Kirk Punches.  Whilst I took the wheel, they donned their strategic caps for battle, grabbed their weapons of hoped-for deliverance (iPad and iPhone, respectively) and took to Apple Maps and Google Maps – frenetically multi-tasking with both weapons to find a better way.  We were ApolIo 13 and we had to come home!  I essentially placed the fate of my marriage in their hands – if we didn’t make it to the airport and on the plane, my “replacement” weekend would be destroyed.  They accepted this challenge – for they too wanted to go home -- and went to work.

Trust me.  This was a thing of beauty.  Stressful beauty.  But, beauty all the same.  Fingers were flying on the touch screens!  Swiping.  Tapping.  Rebooting!  Literally scores of decisions had to be made.  Do we stay on the Interstate crawling at 3-5 MPH (Google Maps told us that the traffic was “red” for at least 5 miles)?  Or, do we instead get off and go use the state highway (where the traffic was “red” for only 3.5 miles)?  In other words, do we follow the road less taken?  Google Maps fed us critical information to at least consider those options (Apple Maps didn’t).  THIS WAS MAJOR DIVORCE POINT #1 FOR APPLE MAPS – NO TRAFFIC OVERLAY!  If we were to follow Apple Maps, we would be blind to the choices around us.  We’d have no critical perspective!  We would never get home!

Based on critical Google Maps info, however, my intrepid and unflappable colleagues directed me to take the bold move to exit to the less-traveled state highway (which was still pretty damn traveled – remember, it was red … and, let’s not forget once again that this was Friday night rush hour in a major East Coast city IN THE RAIN!).  Ahh yes, and that road less traveled ultimately made all the difference.

So, here we are crawling.  Red for miles.  Continuing on this course would fail us.  And, I reminded my crawl-mates of this fact – “Failure is not an option”, I proclaimed (which is always a good thing to do, by the way – in a stressful situation, raise the stress levels even further)!  Fortunately, as I said, my colleagues are unflappable.  So, I witnessed  -- instead of frozen deer -- a beautiful jazz session of road improv.  Take a left here.  Take a slight right there.  Watch out for that car there that is about to smash into my side!  We were bobbing and weaving throughout neighborhoods where no car has gone before!  Truly, this was the final frontier – and our car had become mission control.  We had the best talent to chart the course, but we also needed the best technology.  It was Google v. Apple – who would be our wingman? 

Well, it certainly wasn’t Apple.  THIS WAS MAJOR DIVORCE POINT #2 FOR APPLE MAPS – FALSE INFORMATION!  Kirk was working Google, Eric was working Apple.  Critical decisions needed to be made.  Does this tiny neighborhood street cut through to a key artery to get us back to the now-green Interstate that we needed, or does it not?  According to Apple Maps, the answer was an absolute Nyet.  Dead end.  Google disagreed.  What’s a flustered driver to do?  Trust Google in times of stress!  Thankfully, we did.  And, we broke through – we saw the faint lights of the Interstate ahead of us!  Redemption was ours!

By that point, we had tossed Apple Maps into the dust-bin.  All Google Maps, all the time.  I was fully converted.  OH YES, MAJOR DIVORCE POINT #3 FOR APPLE MAPS – turn by turn directions sound really nice, and look really pretty.  But that kind of detail loses the forest from the trees in times like this.  Sometimes you simply need to rise above the din to see that forest – and gain critical perspective of that overall traffic pattern!  Apple Maps does not allow for this.  Which means that my butt faced the reality that it would still be hopelessly sitting in the driver’s seat of our rental car that was lost in a beautiful street level turn-by-turn virtual reality, while only my virtual butt would be sitting in the seat of the plane that would have taken me back home to my wife in San Diego.

Bottom line – thanks to Google Maps, we made it.  Somehow, we made it, and I was able to write this post from 30,000 feet while this experience was still fresh in my mind.   This is no tall tale, although an adjacent passenger who lives in this East Coast city, throughout the flight, continued to shake his head in amazement that we succeeded in this 1 in 100 shot.  He knows what we were up against.

But, I had my secret weapons.  Eric Quanstrom.  Kirk Punches.  And Google Maps.  That’s why I was on that plane back home tonight.  And that’s why I will be able to rise Saturday morning from my bed in San Diego and go on that “replacement” weekend escape with my wife, Luisa. 

The other guys in other meetings fighting similar odds with Apple Maps never had a chance.  And, they had to spend one more night in that East Coast city, one more weekend away from their families, and one more time missing special events that could have been memorable. 

It was a rainy miserable night for them ….

(PS – remind me to tell you about the beginning of this business trip to the East Coast – about my drive up to LAX from San Diego – about being ticketed for making eye contact with a cop who was driving five lanes over.  No, I am not kidding ….)