The other day I took most of my birthday money and bought a new GPS (I say new, because I already have a 10 year old hand held backpacking model). I have been researching then for a while and was looking for something I could use here and in Swaziland. I ended up getting a great deal at Best Buy on a Tomtom XL 340 and so far have been pretty happy with my purchase.
It does some pretty snazzy stuff. It has lane guidance so you know how to navigate interstate transitions. It has a huge number of pre programmed points of interest. It calculates trip time on the fly based on actually average speeds for each road. It has audible turn by turn directions. It was great this week for our trip down to Tallahassee. You could take backroads without having to worry about watch road signs. It was easy to find out what sort of amenities were at each stop. It allowed us to take a few shortcuts on our way down.
As nice as it has been, I have some misgivings about the thing. You see, I am generally pretty good with directions. I can glance at a map and be able to get around a city with relative ease. I am good at being able to keep my bearings and guess which road to take if our trip takes an unexpected route. I am great at reading a map and being able to plan a trip. The problem is, when you have a GPS that does it all, those skills are not only unnecessary, they are actually diminished.
On this most recent trip, despite knowing my latitude and longitude down to a few feet, there were many times when I did not know where I was. Because I no longer needed to plan my route or keep up with roads I was passing, I found I was not as well acquainted with the city or how road systems ran together. It was easy for me to the closest Zaxby’s, but if someone asked me how to get there later, there is no way I could have told them without relying on th GPS.
Perhaps I am just being sensitive because previously my map and directions skills were valued and recognized and now anyone with $100 can look like Magellan; but, I think there is something more to it. Simply put, I think a GPS like my Tomtom is great for getting around, but is horrible for knowing where you are.
Then again, maybe I am just a luddite. I am sure I would probably decry the advent of the calculator as being the end of our math skills. At the end of the day, while I appreciate its convenience, I would never trade my skills and experience.
I have been a moderate hockey enthusiast for about 15 years now and have always been a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks. In those 15 years, the ‘hawks have only made the Stanley Cup Playoffs 3 times (before last year, they had only made 1 playoff in 13 years!!). I really got back into watching the sport this year whiling playing Fantasy Hockey with friends. Boy did I pick a good year to start watching again as the ‘hawks were loaded with young talent and easily made the playoffs. I was able to watch every game of the first series through the Nashville affiliate and then watched most of the second and third series online.
When Chicago made it to the Stanley Cup Finals by sweeping the San Jose Sharks, I was beside myself with excitement. I vowed to wear my Blackhawks sweater (jersey for you non-hockey folks) every game night in the series despite the blazing June heat.
On Wednesday, Chicago found themselves on the road against Philadelphia up 3-2 in a 7 game series; I found myself at Annual Conference for Kentucky Methodists. At the conclusion of the final session, I rushed out of the conference center to find the first period over and the score tied at 1-1. I ran up to my hotel room and pulled on my red, white and black jersey. I watched most of second period by myself (and it was a great period of hockey). The only time anyone paid any attention was when I made a fool of myself cheering. Those around me limited their interest to the mere fact that anyone actually watched hockey. The second period closed with Chicago up by a goal and my room mates looking to go to bed. I knew I had to find another place to watch the game.
I headed to the hotel lobby and asked if they knew of a place where I could watch the hockey game. “They play hockey in the summer?” she asked. “Yeah… the finals are on!” I said. Her only suggested was to go to the bar downstairs.
I walked down but was dismayed to find the Reds playing baseball. Probably wouldn’t be a problem, but since I could literally see the Reds Stadium from the bar, there seemed to be little chance I was going to be able to convince them to change the channel. After asking several people if it would be possible to watch the game on one of the many TVs, I was told I would have to take it up with bartender.
I went to the bar and asked if there was any chance we could watch the hockey game. She gave me a hesitant look and said as long as the other patrons were okay with it. Luckily the two guys beside me piped up and said they would love to watch it. Turns out both of them used to play hockey (one of them said he played semi-pro). Suddenly a small new world emerged. In the midst of a sea of uninterested bar-goers, three of us could talk about forechecking and plus/minus and penalty killing.
It quickly became obvious the two other fans were not only interested in hockey – they were also big fans of women and booze. I can say without hesitation that the things discussed were most certainly not things most of my pastor friends at Annual Conference were talking about. Besides being obviously drunk, these two guys were quite excited about a certain “dancer” who had given them her number and whose proportions seemed to be abnormal. I will leave the specifics to your imagination, but I have no doubt that whatever you are imagining is tame compared to how the conversation actually unfolded.
As the third period played out with Chicago up, I also engaged the gentleman on my other side in friendly conversation. Turns out he was a Catholic business man with an economics degree from Yale who also happened to be a Detroit Redwings fan. Between his third and fourth glass of wine he asked what I was doing in the area. That is when I got to explain that I was there because I was a Methodist pastor; he was not shocked by this, but was amused with the fact that I was also a distillery manager. Within a few minutes we transitioned from talking hockey to talking about the socio-historic setting of the Ancient Near East. Basically he asked me if I preached and I told him I was more interested in teaching so people could come to their own conclusions. When I told him I often “preached” on historical practices of Israelites, he sarcastically said “yeah, I bet people flock to hear that!” Before long, we were talking about the theological implications of Assyrian and Babylonian suzerain-vassal treaties. Oh the joy.
Our conversation was often interrupted by either a great play in the hockey game or by our friends on the other side who were excited about a new female patron to the bar. So there I was, in a bar, at a church conference, talking with one guy about how the flaming firepot passing between the split carcass of a lamb in Genesis is essential to understanding the cross, and talking with others about what sort of sexual escapades are available to amateur hockey players.
With just a few minutes left in the game, Philly scored and sent things into overtime. Again, in a large crowd of sports fans, there were only 4 of us in the bar that cared that the Stanley Cup playoffs could come down to a sudden death overtime period.
A rumor started spreading that there was another hockey fan outside and that the bartender at that bar might be willing to turn the larger TV on to the game. I excused myself and made my way to the porch. As soon as I walked out (still wearing my Blackhawks jersey), a very large and very drunk man ran up to me and gave me a hug. Between a barrage of curse words, he expressed his enthusiasm for Chicago. We sat down at the bar to watch the overtime period. It was nice to not only find a hockey fan, but also to be able to cheer with someone who supported the same team. At one point after a long string of enthusiastic cussing from my new friend, I turned around to see that my District Superintendant and his wife were sitting right behind us. Oh well… nothing I can do about it.
As the overtime period got underway, my excitement began to build. Even without the sound on, you could tell the Philadelphia crowd was going crazy. The Flyers are a tenacious team and always play hard, especially when something is on the line.
As you can probably tell, the goal was odd. Even players on the ice didn’t know what had happened. It was even harder for me to grasp what was going on between the lack of sound and the drunk ramblings of those around me. Eventually, as the Blackhawks flooded the ice, it was obvious what had happened. The young phenom Patrick Kane had ended the 49 year drought for Chicago. I went crazy, along with the only other Chicago fan in the whole city (as far as I could tell). The drunk womanizers and the wine-drinking Yale grad made their way to me to offer congratulations. It was a hell of a night.
It certainly was not the setting where I expected to celebrate the first ‘hawks cup win in my lifetime, but it was magical either way. I would have loved to be in the Windy City to see that happen, but it was plenty of fun to be a sober distiller at a pastor’s conference watching the game with washed-up hockey players, Catholic history buffs, and drunk Chicago fans.
In many ways the setting only enhanced the experience. Sure, my DS may have “caught” me in a crowd of intoxicated ruffians, but I bet I am one only a few pastors who were able to talk with absolute strangers about redemption. Plus… the ‘hawks won. What more could I ask for.