I changed the voice in my GPS. For years, Ms. Cupstacker was the ghost in my machine. Ms. Cupstacker is the high school history teacher who always catches you passing notes, even when you think she’s looking the other way. She’s the bureaucrat who won’t accept those papers you HAVE TO FILE TODAY. "It's 5:02," she says with smug satisfaction. "The office closes at 5:00."
She’d tell me to “turn right” or “turn left,” but didn’t really seem to care where I wound up; sometimes I got the feeling she would have been just as happy to send me over a cliff. When I missed a turn or chose a slightly different route than the one’s she’d laid out, there'd be an awkward pause, then her “Recalculating” would fairly drip with contempt. But I put up with her attitude because I thought I needed her to get where I was going.
I was riding with a friend recently, and when we reached our destination (under Ms. Cupstacker’s stern direction). I shut of the engine. My friend glared at the GPS. “I hate that voice,” she said, “I don’t know how you stand it.”
“Hey, chill out,” I whispered. “I don’t want to get detention.”
I got a look of pity. “The thing’s off. She can’t hear you. There’s probably another voice in there. Let's check it out.” So we fished through the menu and sure enough, I saw I could replace Ms. Cupstacker with someone who spoke in a British accent. And that’s how I met “Enid.”
Enid has changed my life. She’s cultured, gentle, good natured and supportive—everything Ms. C. wasn’t. When she tells me to “turn left” it sounds like “ton” left. Delightful. And when I miss a turn or choose a slightly different route, her “Recalculating” is patient and non-judgemental. She accepts me as I am, with all my faults.
She's not just giving directions to some office park; it seems like she’s guiding me to her...to some little thatched-roof cottage nestled in the woods under a canopy of green. I park by an ancient oak, give a few taps on the lions head knocker and she opens the door. Enid isn’t beautiful in the conventional sense, and perhaps one beguiled by fashion models would pass her by without a second look. But I’m captivated by her smile, her gentle spirit, and the wicked twinkle in her eye.
There’s a small fire blazing in the hearth, just enough to take off the chill, and I breathe in the aroma of fresh-baked scones. We sit to tea and Scrabble and as I scowl at my sad little collection of tiles, wishing I could convert consonants to vowels by sheer force of will, I realize Enid has yet to lay down a new word. I glance up, our eyes meet, and her expression makes it clear that one game is ending whilst another begins. She removes her spectacles and places them on the lace tablecloth, then slowly pulls out the whalebone pin that holds her bun in place. A thick mass of auburn hair tumbles about her shoulders and glows in the lamplight.
At this point I shall, as any gentleman should, draw a discrete curtain across the rest of our story…