Monday, September 13, 2010

All for the best!

In primary school - probably in the 3rd standard - we had this lesson titled "All for the Best". It was a story about this wise minister who always felt everything happened for a good reason and always dismissed every untoward incident with "All for the Best!". Which earns him the King's wrath one day because he exclaims "All for the Best!" when the King accidentally chops off one of his own fingers. A few weeks later while out hunting, the King is captured by some tribals and is about to be sacrificed to their Goddess when they see a missing finger and thus "disqualify" him from being sacrificed (since only "healthy" men were to be sacrificed).

I was reminded of this story today though of course, my experience was hardly as bizarre or life-threatening.

I landed in Denver, picked up my rental car, punched in my destination address in the GPS and took off. Less than a mile out, my GPS failed. I pulled over and realized the battery was dead and the power-cable was broken. I usually carry my personal GPS - for the petty pleasure of saving my company $10+ per day, but this evening, I was kicking myself for trying to save those $10. For, the road out from Denver Airport is miles and miles and miles of nothing. And at 9PM at night, for sure, you can see nothing else but nothing.

One cannot of course make a U-turn on the freeway and with seemingly every exit either leading to another freeway or a toll road, I didn't really know where to turn. To my luck, my cell-phone signal was also low, so I couldn't use the GPS on my phone either. I would have called my wife for navigational assistance, but my ear-piece was in my bag in the trunk and there was no way I was going to try navigating with the speaker-phone at 70mph at 9PM on an unfamiliar freeway. I was averse to going back to the car rental, because that too was, well, in the middle of another nowhere.

Right then, I heard a soft but ominous alarm in the car. The car was overheating.

That made the decision for me. I was going back to the car rental - middle of nowhere or not. At the car rental, while they were checking me out with the new car, I asked them for a GPS. To which, the customer-rep said he would have to go get one from their storeroom because the ones he had were all broken! DAMMIT, I thought, but I also thought I could just borrow their power cable instead of renting the unit. Turned out it was the power-cable that was broken! For a split second I was convinced some forces were conspiring against me.

But since the car had over-heated and since they didn't have a GPS handy and since I wasn't cussing and yelling - yet - the customer rep decided to help me out. He asked what make my GPS was. Garmin, I said. Turned out he was a sales rep for Garmin before he joined the car rental agency! For the first time in the last 30 minutes, I was actually happy about something. He rummaged around, found a power-cable for my GPS and even went on to tweak some settings on my GPS.

That's how I learned about WAAS and EGNOS -

I drove off - though delayed by a good 30 minutes - actually happy that the first car had overheated! Were it not for the overheating, I might have elected heroics based on the position of the moon to get my bearings to head west over trying to find my way back to the car rental! And of course, I would have been without a GPS for the remainder of my stay. And I would never have heard of WAAS or his cousin, EGNOS. On the other hand, had the GPS not failed, I would have probably had a much longer drive coming back to return the faulty car.

Like they say, "All for the Best!". Though of course, for the GPS not to have failed and the car not to have overheated, would have been better than the best...


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