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Are we there yet? There’s an app for that.

March 30, 2012

I learned during a bus ride from New York City to Boston last weekend that “Are we there yet?” is officially a question of the past. It’s now extinct, like dinosaurs. And typewriters. And skinny jeans, in my dreams.

Consulting iPhones and iPads and other gizmos galore, kids no longer wonder whether we’re there yet. They fucking know. And they won’t shut up about it.

“7.9 miles … 7.8 miles … 7.7 miles … We could walk this!” a young boy sitting directly behind me, his hypnotic iPad in a vice grip, excitedly counted down for his mom as we chugged eastward on the Massachusetts Turnpike with about 20 minutes remaining of a four-plus hour, 215-mile ride.

Most people who aren’t as familiar with the Bible as I am might not know that kids have been torturing their parents by anxiously asking the antediluvian “Are we there yet?” ever since Adam and Eve carted off Cain and Abel for their first out-of-Eden excursion. They pulled over for a pit stop at an oasis called Trader Josiah’s, which was known throughout the land to offer more competitive prices on figs and nuts than rival Holy Foods, but the petulant pair’s patience already had expired. The brothers began grilling Adam and Eve with harping inquiries about their whereabouts, prompting the frazzled parents to turn a deaf ear, after terse but ultimately empty threats to “turn this camel around” went unheeded. (Genesis 6:66)

Fast-forwarding a lot of millenia, pint-sized backseat drivers now calculate real-time directions and anticipate every twist and turn of a road trip before it happens. They’re aware of gridlock and accidents in advance, and even second-guess your choice of routes. And instead of asking where we are or how far we have to go or where babies come from, they tell you.

A geography lesson.

“Six more miles, Mom!”

“Only 4.4 miles! So, like, 11 minutes!”

Imagine your GPS were voiced not by a calm yet confident computerized woman — my mom named hers Garmina — but by an antsy third-grader who has been trapped in a confined space for longer than the movie “The Ten Commandments.” And who’s up way past his bedtime. And whose dinner consisted of Coke and candy from vending machines somewhere in Connecticut. Siri? More like Suri Cruise.

“Only 10 minutes until we reach the station!”

Our technology has come so far that children use it to tell us how far we’ve come. When they are sent to their rooms, I wouldn’t be surprised if they google how to get there, comparing the three best routes before making an informed decision on how to reach their destination. “Sure, I usually just take the stairs,” a tween might snootily say to a younger sibling as his gadget guides him through a detour, “but traffic this time of day is a real bitch.”

Before apps came maps, but they were understood only by cartographers and Asians. And they made dads very angry. Apps have bridged the map gap for the rest of us. The late, great Etta James, who once was mocked for envisioning a world in which even American children embraced geography, was ahead of her time when she sang, “Atlas, my love has come along …”

“Two and a half miles!” said the now-spastic boy, tweaking like an addict in a mobile meth lab. His legs flailed as he began to bop in his seat, the electric sound of corduroy-on-corduroy charging forth from his thighs.

“Only 1 mile, which is about three minutes!”

For each of his public service announcements, I jammed ear buds deeper into my skull, jacked up the volume and tried to drown out the torment of not being quizzed on where we were, but rather repeatedly being reminded of where we weren’t. Which is just as annoying. Nature finds a way. You know how in “Jurassic Park” the all-female dinosaur clan still spawns by switching sex? Yeah. Like that. 

“We’re getting off on a bridge? No, OK. We’re just stopping.”

“So close! Let’s just push the bus!”

“Mom, only four-tenths of a mile till we …”

“That’s nice, honey,” his mother mindlessly muttered for what seemed like the millionth time, striking the perennial parental balance passed down through the ages of validating while simultaneously tuning out a child.

Because the saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” won’t go the way of the dodo anytime soon.

P.S. A reader emailed me about Chase Gordon, an amazing 14-year-old boy in Arkansas battling brain cancer. You can watch a video about him here, and send along well-wishes and prayers and kittens via his website or Thanks for always being awesome, you guys.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2012 4:57 AM

    Ohh man how annoying must that have been! Damn kids. But ye know what’s worse, a plane full of wooo teenagers.

    I fell you, I really do.

    Cheers, awesome cat-lady 🙂

  2. March 30, 2012 6:02 AM

    I shopped at Trader Joe’s on Tuesday and Whole Foods tonight. And now I feel … oddly Biblical. Which is not what I normally expect from your blog.

  3. March 30, 2012 8:51 AM

    Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god … I wanted to reach out and smash that kid’s phone, and I was only reading about it. My kids will be allowed to have some technology, as long as they also fear me and their father enough to realize when to SHUT IT DOWN because we are about to thrown their belonging out a bus window. But don’t call CPS. Ha. HA. NO really.

  4. March 30, 2012 9:29 AM

    If I had to choose between whiny kid and chirpy know-it-kid I supposed I would choose option 2.

  5. March 30, 2012 9:37 AM

    I wonder if Trader Josiah’s has Two Shekel Jekyll or some version thereof. Also, I will never think of Etta quite the same way now. Glad you made it alive and without a homicide charge.

  6. March 30, 2012 10:50 AM

    can you get the fruit of the tree of knowledge at trader josiah’s?

  7. Jessica permalink
    March 30, 2012 11:21 AM

    aaaaaaaannnnndddd I’m fixin to be a grandma. Up my medication.

    Also you never fail to humor me 🙂

  8. March 30, 2012 11:37 AM

    Funniest post ever. As the mum of three Question Boys, I have been known to plan airline flights with separate seating (“darn, we couldn’t get seat all together”), taking the least annoying child, and leaving Jim with the question boys.

    I’ve got to get to Trader Josiah’s…you’ve just reminded me…

  9. March 30, 2012 2:46 PM

    wait, you learned about trader josiah’s in hebrew school, too??

  10. March 30, 2012 2:59 PM

    Wow…that kid sure does know how to make a long ride home…LONGER! Oh well maybe someday he will be the next Ricky Bobby because it took so long getting home. Life is funny like that.

  11. March 30, 2012 4:24 PM

    i thought it was federal law that all yakky humans under the age of 18 had to be heavily dosed with Benadryl when using any long-distance forms of public transportation?

    oh, wait. that’s just in my imaginary, kinder, gentler universe.

  12. March 30, 2012 8:54 PM

    Just another reason why we complement each other so perfectly.

    Picture me in your place, only on a twelve hour bus ride through Mexico. Now picture the boy- a young nino-whose parents probably can’t afford to buy him an iPad but wouldn’t even if they could for fear of stifling his gift for entertaining others. At least that’s what I gathered, based on his non-stop comments like (loosely translated):

    “Look at me madre! I’m doing this!”
    “Now look at me!”
    “Look at me now!”
    “How about now!”
    “Watch me do this!”
    “Papa, look! I’m holding this thing!”

  13. March 31, 2012 12:56 AM

    I was about two paragraphs in before I started dreaming of valium! This is why traveling with cats is much better. No opposable thumbs.

    Thank you, thank you, Jessica, for posting about Chase. I am the reader who emailed. I’m posting from the Hope for Chase blog. We’d love a visit from any readers here!

    • March 31, 2012 4:41 AM

      I watched the Chase video. I know it’s an uplifting moment but it made me too sad to comment there. Darling boy, I wish him many moments of joy.

  14. March 31, 2012 8:05 PM

    Oh my god, I’m ready to smack that kid.

    Although in all honesty? I would be that kid. I spend an awful lot of time checking and rechecking maps and apps when we’re going somewhere. Because I LOATHE the travel part of traveling.

    But I like you.

  15. April 1, 2012 3:16 AM

    On the bright side, death is closer than ever.

  16. Marian permalink
    April 3, 2012 11:06 AM

    corduroy-on-corduroy IS an electric sound.

  17. April 3, 2012 6:01 PM

    Trader Josiah’s AND Holy Foods! You win the internet!!!
    Also, Blogologues!? April 21st? Eh? TOGETHER?!

  18. April 3, 2012 7:00 PM


  19. April 5, 2012 1:27 PM

    omg, that kid would have driven me insane!

  20. April 6, 2012 7:24 AM

    Yet another reason not to spawn… I’ve been known to swear at my actual GPS! (her name is Sheila, and she does not understand one-way roads).

  21. redg_rl permalink
    April 6, 2012 10:30 PM

    Hilarious & clever as per usual! A 4 year
    old siezed my phone today & proceeded
    to sort through my photos & videos. When
    asked by another peer, she started to take
    photographs. We’re all in BIG trouble.
    Methinks He-Brew is sold at Josiah’s &
    Holy’s aswell.. 😉 (that beer really does exist already though so I claim no credit)
    so I cannot claim any credit there)

    • redg_rl permalink
      April 6, 2012 10:31 PM

      Clearly the 4 year old could have
      edited out that typo as well..

  22. April 7, 2012 10:26 AM

    Trader Josiah…hahahhaa. I wonder i they had to use reusable canvas bags at that store too?

    Seriously, I get laughed at all the time for saying this, but I absolutely hate cell phones and the majority of technology that people just seem to cling onto these days. Whatever happened to the element of surprise that comes with life? I say we go back to writing letters on parchment and putting thought into what we say instead of always making it quick and easy, but that’s just me!

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