My Dysfunctional Relationship With Waze

It started out innocent enough, my relationship with the real time driving app Waze. When my son transferred to a new school 25 minutes from home, I figured the drive would be no problem. “I’ve been driving for 20 years,” I thought to myself. “I’ve got this.”

But I didn’t have this because my kid was late to school on his first day of school. The traffic was epic and the tension in the car ride there was reality show worthy. I vowed my kid would never be late again. But short of leaving the house at the crack of dawn, I saw very few options.

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See my kid’s morning ritual includes waking up, dawdling, getting distracted, losing his shoes, wondering where his homework is, and an extra bit of dawdling before we’re in the car, pulling out of the driveway, when he decides he has to run back inside. He has to go pee.

Then a buddy who sends her son to the same school who also lives in my neighborhood suggested Waze. “Just use Waze,” she said. “It gives you real time traffic reports and suggests a route based on the day’s traffic. I can’t live without it and my kid is never late to school.”

And so I downloaded the free app, punched in the name of my son’s school, and set off to take him to his second day of school.

A Waze car ride is the equivalent of being on the inside of a video game. You feel like Pac Man, running in to walls, but getting there in time. That’s because Waze takes you through side streets, residential neighborhoods and parts of town you never knew existed. Gone are the major thoroughfares, freeways, and well-known streets. In their place, are a zig-zag of routes with enough turns and cutaways that Dramamine may be required. But you’re never late, or at least you know just how late you’re going to be.

So my kid was on time. And I didn’t grind my teeth the entire ride or snap at my kids and have them call me “Mean Mommy.” From then on, I used Waze every single morning to get my kid to school on time.

The traffic in the afternoon isn’t nearly as bad as it is in the morning, but a few Waze’s into the school year I figured it was foolish of me not to use it for the afternoon run. And so as soon as I’d picked my little one up from her school, which is minutes away from my house, I’d ask Waze the best way to get from my daughter’s school to my son’s.

Once again, Waze did not disappoint. We were always on time to pick my kid up. That’s when I started to use Waze everywhere I needed to go, anytime of the day or night.

“Don’t you know how to get home, Mommy?” the kids would ask as they heard me slyly turn on the app as we’d head home from any destination near or far.

“Of course I do,” I covered. “But The Lady is telling me the fastest way to get there.”

But, I didn’t just want to know the fastest way to get home. I wanted to know the right way to get home. Waze took any guessing out of commuting and saved me from the inevitable, “What do you think freeway, or streets?” conversation that could send even the happiest of marriages straight to divorce court.

Waze changed all that. It took the anxiety out of driving and the responsibility of getting my kids to school on time off of me. See I’m actually a fairly punctual person. My children however are not, especially the big one whose school is the farthest away.

Waze doesn’t allow us to time travel, but it does help cut through some of the traffic so we can make up for the fifteen minutes when the big one was looking for his shoes.

Which were on his feet.

See despite me having no physical control over whether or not my kids move when I say, “Let’s go!”, I am responsible for getting them where they need to go on time. Arrive late too many times to school drop off, tennis, or soccer practice and you’ll meet the raised eyebrow of the persons in charge. And what they’re thinking is, “That mom does not have her shit together.”

No one assumes the kids are late because the kids are late, they assume the kids have a shitty mom who can’t quite get everyone out the door on time. But no mom, or human for that matter, can get the kids out the door on time.

But The Lady helped with that. She took the responsibility for things I can not control off of me and on to her. Arrive late and simply say, “Waze took me on the shittiest route,” and you’ve got a conversation starter that could keep the conversation going for hours on end as other parents share their stories of the shitty route not taken.

Waze, as it turns out, was technological Xanax. The anxiety of how to get the kids to school on time was replaced by, “Everyone shh. Let’s see which way The Lady is taking us today.”

The Lady started to feel like a buddy, even a best friend. She anticipated my needs, warned me of trouble, and soothed me when I missed a turn by suggested another and then another. She never got angry, even when I missed a major turn and took another right into a dead end.

I started to look forward to turning on my Waze app and would occasionally use it even when I didn’t need to. The Lady kept me company on drives to the dry cleaner or on that quick trip to Whole Foods. “Let’s get started!” she’d say without a hint of snark or sarcasm. The Lady never seemed to tire of me. And so I never tired of her.

I began to image The Lady telling a joke or what she’d be like on a girl’s night out. I’d thank her at the end of a long car ride and would explain to my kids that no there wasn’t really a lady in my phone whose sole purpose was to get my kids to school on time.

But in my mind, there was. In my mind The Lady was my personal assistant, on call, and ready for anything.

And then things started to take a turn for the worse between me and The Lady. I started to resent her relentless enthusiasm when she chirped, “Traffic up ahead!” as if I couldn’t see it. I began to dread her warning me of policemen up ahead or potholes nearby.

“It’s not that helpful to know there’s a pothole if you don’t tell me where it is,” I’d bark at my phone as if The Lady was ever going to answer back.

And I started to get angry when The Lady would direct me to cross multiple lanes of traffic on the busiest Los Angeles streets as if my life didn’t matter. All that mattered to The Lady is that I got to my destination on time. The Lady didn’t care how that happened and how many years the commute took off my life.

That’s when I realized I had a Waze problem. I might even be addicted to Waze.

See Waze made driving so easy that I started to want real time answers for everything. I wanted an app telling me when my kids would go to sleep. And more importantly, when they would wake up. I wanted an app that would find my kids shoes, an app to remind them to do homework, even an app to fold the laundry. I wanted to eradicate the guessing game and responsibility of motherhood and replace it with real time answers as if The Lady might chirp, “Kid’s nightmare up ahead. Prepare to get woken up at 2 am.”

But Waze had me fooled into a responsibility-free coma, where all eyes were not on me and I was not to blame for things I could not control. Waze set me up to think anything was possible, but it’s not. The best we can hope for is to get our kids to school on time. No one is ever going to help us find the kid’s shoes.

For a while I tried to quit Waze. I’d brave the commute without The Lady’s pothole warnings or encouraging reminders. But somewhere along the drive to the big one’s school, I’d pull over and flip on the app. “Let’s get started!” she’d say.

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“I can’t quit you,” I’d respond back.

Then The Lady would send me on a zig-zag route that had my children sitting in the back seat with barf bags. She’d cajole me to cross 4 lanes of rush hour Wilshire Blvd. traffic, one of the busiest streets in town. She’d tell me to turn left on Rimpau after I’d already passed Rimpau. But, I couldn’t quit her. And I still can’t.

See Waze isn’t just about getting the kids to school on time. It’s about giving me someone to blame when I don’t. I’m willing to cross 4 lanes of traffic on Wilshire Blvd. just to make that happen.

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2 thoughts on “My Dysfunctional Relationship With Waze

  1. I downloaded Waze on the advice of a tech-savvy friend. It helped us navigate the best route home from Florida and warned us of police cars and traffic backups ahead. I don’t use it often at home because my route is predictable and here in Kansas we don’t really have much of a rush hour. I can see where it could become addictive, though! You can change your avatar and see other Waze users nearby.

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