Me Tom Tom, you Jane

Driving through the Albert dock in Liverpool last weekend, the Satellite Navigation system unexpectedly demanded Turn left - now. It was unexpected because, on the left, was the Irish sea. Mimicking the impeccable English accent of the female voice on the Tom Tom, I continued, Enter Mersey abandon car now. The four of us in the car had a bit of a giggle and continued straight on. Bless her; women do give a spurious direction once in a while.

But I have to admit, the lady inside that mini computer is very good at her job. She gives me road names, distances and directions with (almost) unswerving accuracy and, unlike the fleshly woman that was formally in charge of in-car navigation, doesn't get flustered by my taking a wrong turning or an unscheduled diversion. To escape the charge of sexism, I must add that it has been scientifically proven (as far as it can be) that women are not as hot at reading maps and giving directions than men. Just last week, in The Times, science journalist Vivienne Parry reluctantly admitted from her own ad-hoc experiment that women who orientate maps and locations around their person and give directions in terms of landmarks, are inferior to men who locate their person relative to geographical space and who give directions in terms of distances, numbers and left/right directions, in this regard. (Women, it comes as no surprise, are better at multitasking). Studies have also shown that men are more likely to trust the electronic mans voice on their in-car systems than the ladys.

But the Tom Tom woman is, of course, just as trustworthy as her virtual husband. Perhaps we should all switch our Satnavs to the ladys voice consciously in order to undermine our prejudices. And maybe Jane, as I like to call her, was right in Liverpool after all. She may have just learnt her trade from Google Maps, whosedirections from New York to London instructs drivers to Swim across Atlantic Ocean 3,462 miles. Seriously.

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