It is only appropriate that I start this blog by letting you know it is being posted from 30,000 feet in the air, on the Gogo in-flight internet. Yes - you and I, along with my computer and the Internet, are flying AirTran Airways from Los Angeles, California, to Atlanta, Georgia. Technology has come a long way, and the ability for dyslexics to utilize it has come just as far. The idea for this blog came to me as I was preparing for the trip to California last Saturday.
I was running around my house frantically looking for my Magellan RoadMate 700 portable GPS when it hit me. What would I do without my GPS system? For the past six years or so, I have been traveling approximately one hundred thousand miles per year to attend conferences, school assembly programs, and university lectures. My GPS has played a huge role in my being able to travel like this.
I go where my inspirational programs are needed. I board a plane, fly to my destination, and jump in a rental car. The first thing I do in the car is check the cigarette lighter, not because I smoke, because I don't, but because I have to plug in "my girl," who takes care of me on the roads and gets me to my destination. When she comes alive, it is like music to my ears: "Proceed to highlighted route," "Left turn in one mile," "Left turn now," and, yes, even "Whenever possible, make a legal U-turn" but eventually, I get to hear "You have arrived".
Most people love a little technological convenience in their lives, but for me as a dyslexic it is more than just a convenience. When that GPS box lights up, it is like a warm blanket telling me that I don't have to "literally" read the signs to get to where I am going. What a relief.
Before I got my first GPS nearly thirteen years ago, travel was brutal. I hated venturing outside the comfort zone of familiar roads. I knew that once I crossed that invisible line of knowing where I was, to depending on street signs, I was at the mercy of the streets. It was read or get lost.
I'm from the sprawling and mostly rural state of Georgia. Here, the jokes about "Go down to the Piggly Wiggly and turn right" are very real to me. In my comfort zone, I know where the "big oak tree" is and that I have to turn left there. When my occupation required me to travel across Georgia, however, and later throughout the whole United States, without my GPS the traveling could have been a deal breaker.
Before traveling with "my girl," travel was a nightmare, and I was a traffic disaster for myself and others. I was that fellow in the car almost at a dead stop at the green light, the one people would blow their horns at and give hand signals of encouragement to (you know the ones). But why was I doing this? I knew green meant go, but I couldn't read the street signs fast enough to know if that was my turn or not. You can't imagine how many times I have prayed for red lights and crawled through green lights. It became a joke. I would tell people that I had to leave early enough to "enjoy traffic." In Atlanta, I promise, there is plenty of traffic to "enjoy"!
What I found myself doing when driving, to compensate for dyslexia, was judging the general length of the words on the signs. When I was looking for a street name that was long, like Peachtree or International blvd, I would just ignore all the signs with short words, like Park or Main, on them. I could see the word was the right or wrong length long before I could read the actual word. I had learned that sounding out words at major intersections was not going to make me any new friends and just added to the overall stress of my travels. Navigating through life this way was no picnic.
Then I found "my girl," and today I find myself becoming more and more of a techno dyslexic. Although my Magellan RoadMate 700 is a clunky and oversized box compared to the ones currently on the market, "my girl" gets me where I am going, and I embrace her for it.
Likewise, I embrace other technologies that make reading and writing less evasive in my day to day life. I love the idea of voice recognition technology software, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking and Kurzweil 3000. I like that my spell check caught about fifty words I misspelled in this blog alone. I am excited to see how far technology has come in my lifetime, and I look forward to embracing new technologies, whether it's a new "girl" helping me in my travels or whatever else technology holds for the future.
I am a techno dyslexic, and I look forward to seeing you on the road.