My Life As A GPS Dot
2:00 PM EST on December 7, 2023
Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. And buy Drew’s book, “The Night The Lights Went Out,” through here.
I am not a person. I am a dot. There I am on my phone: a pulsing blue dot with a white border. I am walking along a street, my phone tells me. A stubby, widening beam emanating from my dot tells me that I am heading west-ish. I look up a restaurant up on my phone. It looks very tasty, and I would like to eat lunch there. So I hit the DIRECTIONS button and check the time: five minutes by car, 15 by mass transit, 10 by bike, and 20 by foot. I’ll be going on foot, so I toggle to the little walking man icon and then study my route. It’s not too complicated. I have to walk three blocks, turn left, walk a mile, turn right at Franklin Street, and then walk four more blocks. I can remember all that, I think to myself before committing. I don’t need to look at my phone anymore. So I put it away.
But after the second block, I need to make extra sure that I’m making my right turn onto the correct street. I must become a dot again. In fact, I better stay a dot for this extended segment of the walk, just so that I don’t miss Franklin Street. It’s not a very wide road, so maybe it’s poorly marked. It may not even have a stoplight where it intersects with the road I’m on now. I don’t want to miss it. I also don’t want to make that right turn a half mile too early, because I can see a winding blue squiggle—a river—cutting across my phone. The road I’m on is the only thoroughfare that crosses that river, so taking a right too early will entrap me in some faceless residential area. That could cost me time. I might even get assaulted by a woodchuck. Can’t risk it.
So I stay a dot. There I am, still pulsing blue and inching ever so slowly along the thick boulevard line on my screen. I am getting closer to my quarry: a red pin that promises me a decent sandwich. Mmmm … sandwich.
But wait … my lips are suddenly chapped and I have no ChapStick. I’m gonna have to see if there’s a drugstore near the restaurant pin. So I turn the directions off and search the area for a CVS, only I search “CBS” by accident and my phone tells me that there’s a local CBS affiliate 12 miles away. That’s very nice but not what I’m interested in right now, phone. I have to re-center and search again. I have not looked up from my phone in many minutes. I can hear pretty birds chirping near me, but I have not seen them. An oncoming truck could pulverize me at any moment.
I get the ChapStick, which does the job. I get my sandwich, which turns out to be a letdown. A touch bland. My tummy had a lot invested in that red pin. It had visions of hot, tender pastrami, its copious juices soaking the thick rye bread slices surrounding it. But once I get to the pin, I am confronted with a thoroughly average deli. Alas, the map told me to come here, and so this is where I stay. Next time, I’ll pick a different pin.
Later, I am in my car. I am no longer a dot. I am a cursor, forever pointed forward. The GPS lady on my dashboard is guiding me home. I have heard this artificial woman’s voice more often in the past year than the voice of my own, human mother. I’ve heard it all from this lady before. “Route re-calculating.” “In 800 feet, make a U-turn.” “Your destination is ahead.” Now she has me on the interstate. I can see a constellation of brake lights flashing near the horizon. That’s a backup. My car’s navigation system isn’t up to speed on traffic conditions, so I crane my neck in an attempt to ascertain the source of the jam. Maybe there’s an accident. Maybe there’s road work. Maybe there’s nothing and people are simply driving like assholes. I have to know. I am conditioned to have access to all information at all times, especially in times like this.
I take out my phone. I’m only going 5 mph, so it’s almost kinda sorta legal to do the phone thing. I check the map on it. Now I am both a cursor and a dot, with the latter crawling along a thick yellow line on the screen. In a few millimeters, the yellow turns to orange. In a few more, the orange turns to red. The red bleeds off the edge of the screen. I pinch. More red. I pinch again. More red. The exit ramps ahead are also red, as are the side streets. All I see is red. What if it’s red forever? What if there was a nuclear war 10 miles ahead and no one told me? I pinch again and there’s a little crash icon with a +45 MIN bubble sprouting from it.
When we left for this trip, my phone said that our arrival time home would be 1:07 p.m. It has revised that ETA to 2:30 p.m. After five minutes idling on the road, the phone revises that ETA again, to 2:37 p.m. And then to 2:52 p.m. This jam is a watched pot that will never boil.
And yet I watch. I am in a quiet panic. We are never going to get home. We are going to die on this road.
My wife, who has been sitting next to me the entire time, tells me to put the phone away and takes out her own. But I don’t want her guiding me. I want to be the dot. I have years of experience in dot-hood. I have been a roving dot in New York, and in San Francisco, and in Paris. I was a dot before you were a cursor in your mother’s womb, lady. I will handle this.
We clear the jam and I floor it. I put my phone back to sleep, but keep it near because I’m still tender from enduring all of that congestion. I see a brake light flash in the distance and feel my blood turn to steam. I just went through hell. There shouldn’t be enough cars left in the world to create another jam. This is not fair. I become a dot again to make sure our ETA hasn’t been bumped into 2026. We have not lost any extra time. If I go 90 the rest of the way, maybe I can even nudge the ETA back down. We are free and clear now, and I know where I’m going. I don’t need the phone anymore, and I don’t need the GPS.
And yet I keep the navigation pane open on the dash, and I keep the GPS lady’s voice on so that I can keep a close eye on that ETA. I have no plans for when we get home, I simply want to be home. At home, there is no traffic. There are no disappointing lunch spots. I don’t need a mildly sentient computer to give me directions to the toilet. I know where I am, and I have nowhere I need to go. In the rest of this world, I am not me when I’m on the move. I am dot. I am a handful of pixels marooned in a sea of other pixels: oblivious to the tangible, and quite beautiful, world that I am passing though.
From the outer reaches of space, this planet is itself a dot. Famously so. It’s only when you zoom in all the way that Earth comes to life before you. Pinch out and there are oceans. Pinch out again and there are continents. Pinch out again and there are streets, and houses, and parked cars. Pinch out one more time and there I am, sitting in my chair, getting out my phone because I don’t know where my daughter is. We have location sharing turned on, so I tap on her contact name to check her position on the map.
I see a dot.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Eagles at Cowboys: It’s been a while since I’ve shit on Philly fans for pretending they’re the only sports fans in the world, but since this tweet is an evergreen RT for their acolytes I have to break my silence.
That’s every dad, Eagles Twitter. For every team. You dumbfucks don’t have the market cornered on basic NFL fan behavior. I bet you’re also the only fans who make the No Good signal when the other guys miss a field goal, yeah? ONLY IN PHILLY, BABY! Up yours.
Seahawks at 49ers: I have nothing to add to the Dre Greenlaw/Philly rent-a-cop kerfuffle except that I believe Greenlaw was miming giving Dom Pastrami the Dirty Sanchez. Let’s go to the videotape!
See how he draws his line across Dom Gabagool’s top lip? Pure Sanchez!
Bills at Chiefs: Oh hey thanks for making the Packers the toast of the NFL all week, Chiefs. I hope your team bus drives off an embankment.
Colts at Bengals: In case you missed Tyler Boyd’s interception on Monday night, it was a thing of majesty:
This was actually the second throwback pass that the Bengals called in that game. The first one was completed (that’s good) behind the line of scrimmage (uh oh) to quarterback Jake Browning (NOOOOOOOO), who promptly got his shit ruined.
We’re now five years removed from the Philly Special, which wasn’t technically a throwback pass but is close enough in spirit. Ever since then, multiple teams have trotted out variations of that play in a fit of daring, hoping to give area dads a needed six only to pull a Bengals in the process. Let’s chill out on the razzle dazzle for a while, everyone. Let’s go back to the way it was, when gadget plays were reserved exclusively for cocky good teams and for 1-16 teams that had no other means of generating offense.
Broncos at Chargers
Rams at Ravens
Titans at Dolphins: Thanks to the end of Twitter and to my switch to YouTube TV, I am now much more comfortable with recording primetime games and watching them the next morning. Before this season, I never saved primetime games. DirecTV’s controls were too wonky, the danger of spoilers was too great, and I simply had to follow the game on social media as it was unfolding, to get the full experience.
Now that X is walking around wearing Twitter’s face as a mask, that third part of that equation no longer feels mandatory, if it ever was to begin with. And YouTube TV makes recording games* and skipping through them effortless. So now I’m more than happy to get up in the morning, plop down in my recliner, and mainline the previous night’s game without spoilers, and without everyone online making the same I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THE RULES ARE ANYMORE! complaint that they’ve been making since the dawn of modems. I no longer have FOMO watching games this way. In fact, it’s downright meditative to watch football on your own, totally unencumbered by outside influences. I’m awake, I’m fresh and alert, and I don’t have to sweat my old-man bedtime creeping up. This must be what being a West Coast sports fan feels like all the time. Four stars.
(*You have to be careful when you record a game on YouTube TV that it doesn’t record a replay that aired at 3:00 a.m. and has spoilers running on the score crawl directly underneath it that you have to avoid glancing at. It’s too early in the morning for me to have that kind of eye discipline.)
Vikings at Raiders
Jaguars at Browns
Lions at Bears
Bucs at Falcons
Packers at Giants: Oh hey look at that, the Packers are good now and Jordan Love is the real deal. That’s super. I’m so happy for them. Also, I hope Love is standing underneath the Chiefs team bus when it falls off of that embankment.
Texans at Jets
Panthers at Saints
Patriots at Steelers
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
"(A bit of a) Birthday," by Heavy Lungs!
It's basically one riff, but sometimes one riff is all you need. Definitely worse things than sounding like if some soccer hooligans beat up Josh Homme and fronted Queens for a song.
This riff is VERY close to a QOTSA song (“Sick, Sick, Sick,” to be precise), but I’ll allow it. I don’t think Heavy Lungs lead vocalist Danny Nedelko is a threat to break through to superstardom anytime soon.
Eric Adams’s Lock Of The Week: Chiefs (-2.5) over Bills
“Now I’ve lived in Kansas City my whole life, and lemme tell you: it’s always a great day for food here! We love our barbecue in K to the C. Just yesterday, I had one of our classic ‘hot dogs’ with lettuce and ketchup. Hit the spot!”
2023 Record: 8-5
Fire This Asshole!
Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2023 chopping block:
Josh McDaniels – FIRED!
Frank Reich – FIRED!
(*potential midseason firing)
I’m gonna need Bill Belichick to get his shit together for the final month of the season and string together at least one or two empty victories that cost his team the No. 1 overall pick. NO ONE in Boston gives a shit about the Patriots now that they’re terrible, and I’d like to keep it that way. So pick a temp QB and stick with him, you decrepit pile of shit.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Mike sends in this story I call SILVER LINING LAY POOP:
It's the summer of 2001 in South Philadelphia and I'm 12 years old. The biggest event in town, by far, is the X Games at what was then still the F.U. Center. Could Tony Hawk land another 900? What about Bucky Lasek and Bob Burnquist dueling for best run?
I wasn't an obese child by any means, but I had some chunk on me at that age. As one of the few kids among my suburban friends who was still not a teenager, I was given slack for needing extra attention when we were out. My buddy's parents dropped us off at the stadium complex that afternoon and let us do our thing. I don't love crowds. I felt like I might get swept away in foot traffic and wind up having my name blasted out on an intercom.
What happened that day was much worse.
Near the end of the vert skateboarding events, we were supposed to head out to the parking lot to reconnect with my friend's parents and his siblings. On the way, I decided I needed to get a soft pretzel. I shoved most of it down and broke off some pieces for my friends.
As soon as we stepped outside, it hit me. I had to poo. Bad. I felt panicky and lightheaded. My heart rate went up. I heard Hitchcock strings. I couldn't go back to the stadium because my friends would just make fun of me. I felt like my age had been cut in half.
That's when I told my friends. They shrugged at me.
“Can you hold it?” they asked.
“I don't think so,” I whined.
“I don't know what to tell you, man,” said one of them.
We were now crossing into the parking lot of Veterans Stadium, where the minivan would be waiting for us. It was actually pretty empty, so I looked around, saw some bushes up against a fence and said, "Guys, I'm gonna go shit behind those bushes. Watch my guard." They started cracking up. I hobbled over to a coniferous grove and dropped trou. I can't explain that moment. It was the peace that I imagine arrives in the final moments of a life well-lived. That I didn't have a plan to wipe was irrelevant. Grossly, I found a bit of unused paper towel back there. I really feel like that was the day I became a true Philadelphian.
A rite of passage for anyone living in that city.
And Now Let’s Go Down To The Sideline To Check In With Charissa Thompson
“Drew, I just spoke with Secret Service officials and they told me that Henry Kissinger is recovering from his death much quicker than any of them expected, and that they hope to see him back in action as soon as the next war. Satan’s head trainer, Dr. H.H. Holmes, told those officials, ‘I’ve never seen anyone attack rehab the way that Kissinger has.' Holmes cautioned that death is usually a life-ending injury, but noted that Kissinger is ‘no ordinary war criminal’ and that his return to committing genocide isn’t out of the question. ‘We’ll just have to see how it goes from here,’ he told officials. But I could tell from talking to the White House that they’re excited for the potential boost a resurrected Kissinger could give their Defense. Back to you, Drew.”
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Estribos a la Tequila! Oh, this can’t be good. From Spencer:
I picked this bad boy up at a market in downtown Paris, mainly because the rainbow puke can appealed to me, as did the fact that tequila was apparently fused into the beer. The two-Euro price tag was a selling point too.
Unlike most beers featured in this section, the beer was not Steel Reserve reincarnated, but was instead very sweet with no trace of tequila to be found. I regret nothing.
You got lucky. If I saw that beer out in the wild, I would expect the artificial tequila flavoring to hit full bore: all harsh, zero smooth.
Gameday Movie Of The Week For Panthers Fans
Phantom Thread. I split all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies into two categories: Inscrutable (The Master, Inherent Vice, Magnolia) and Normal (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood). I only like the Normal ones. Lucky for me, Phantom Thread falls into that category. It’s the perfectly normal love story of a domineering clothier and the woman who wins his heart by serving him toxic foodstuffs. Four stars. Vicky Krieps deserved more love for this one.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“Like Stonehenge, this site will forever be a mystery. Who was Bart? And how did he manage to write his name in solid cement?”
“He must have been much smarter than his sister Lisa, about whom we know nothing.”
Enjoy the games, everyone.