Trust is fragile. It doesn’t take much to ruin it.

It’s like a drop of red ink on a white wedding gown, or a scratch on your shiny new car. The thing about trust is, it can be lost forever with only one betrayal.

People who know me say I’ll a techie kind of guy. They say that about me because I’ve told them that I am, and usually they don’t care enough to make me prove it. The latest example: directional navigation while driving.

I was slow to adopt this modern marvel, only because those tried and true paper maps that gas stations used to give away have served me well. Gas stations used to also give away oil level checks and green stamps.

Our family sedan has some miles on it, but it’s not too old to have come from the factory with built-in navigation — for an additional monthly fee, of course. I’ve been told it’s pointless to maintain that subscription when you can do the same thing on your cell phone, but I find it easier to have all the information displayed on the dashboard.

However, occasionally, we travel in our second car, and it has no factory navigation.

In April, I was in a distant Texas city, and my cell phone instructions led me precisely to where I told it to go. Unfortunately, I actually needed to be at a different location in that city. I typed in that name, the phone gave me my route, and off I went. Unfortunately, that place had moved, and it had moved a long time ago. Now late for the appointment, I called the site for an address. My phone insisted that address didn’t exist.

My trust was broken, not only for phone navigation, but all navigation. Where’s a paper map when it’s needed?

Three weeks later, my wife and I landed at an airport in North Carolina and prepared to drive four hours to vacation on the coast. We had visited there last year, but we arrived from a different direction. Still, I had a general idea of how to proceed.

We spent a few minutes figuring out the rental car’s navigation system, and since we weren’t sure we did everything right, we consulted a cell phone for directions instead. Its routing suggested we leave the airport and turn west. Everybody knows the coast is due east.

We stopped and worked with the car’s navigation again. It wanted us to go north. We needed to find Highway 74, I told my wife, and this was crazy.

We obeyed the car’s directions and headed north, venturing out with fragile faith. All seemed well until it directed us to turn off onto a narrow state highway. I balked. Back to the phone we went, and it recommended a U-turn as soon as it was safe.

One hour later, we reached familiar territory. We weren’t lost after all, but I sensed we had wasted some valuable time.

At our destination, I consulted a paper roadmap to trace our steps and missteps. As it turned out, every one of the directions both the phone and car had given us would have gotten us there. Both systems were routing us around the big city’s congested downtown district, but in different ways.

We should have picked one navigation system and trusted it. Better still, we should have used a paper map.


Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at