I was amused to read that these days the Rolling Stones have hotel riders that demand instructions for all the gadgets in their rooms.
Can you imagine Keith Richards’s fury at having a flat screen TV filled with an aged Brazilian soap opera dubbed into German that he couldn’t turn off, especially as modern hotel rooms usually have sealed windows and TVs bolted to walls, so chucking the telly into a swimming pool is no longer an option.
On a practical level I do have a lot of sympathy for the old devils (sorry, but I couldn’t resist). As a fellow ageing technophobe, gadgets that small children can operate with ease constantly baffle me. In fact, the last time I stayed in a hotel room the only way I managed to shut down the TV was to unplug it.
Which brings me on to car sat navs. I’ve been driving around in a Honda HR-V. It’s a generally very pleasant car, the sort of thing people who like the idea of a Nissan Juke, but not its looks, might buy. Slightly choppy ride and sometimes-noisy diesel engine aside it’s easy to like, with a slick gear change, good handling and a shed load of equipment, including a sat nav that could baffle a Rolling Stone. It certainly got the better of me.
It’s no more complicated than countless rival systems, and proved easy to programme, after which a briskly efficient, not-to-be-argued with female voice told me exactly where to go, which was fine until I got there, and couldn’t switch her off.
‘Why didn’t you look at the instruction book, fool?’ I hear you cry. Well, for some reason there wasn’t one in the car, and anyway, these things often contain more words than a Dan Brown novel. Recent exposure to an Audi A4, whose alarm I wanted to disable, meant spending a very long time leafing through a 500-page tome, which I found more engaging as literature than Mr. Brown’s oeuvre, but just as impenetrable. In the end my wife found the relevant fix.
Back to the Honda. Individually all its on board systems are pretty intuitive, but sadly taken as a whole they proved more than a match for your grumpy correspondent. So I was unable to close down or re-set the sat nav, which proceeded to say ‘at the next junction make a U turn’ until electronic laryngitis must have threatened its bossy voice.
I’d allegedly re-set the system, but apparently unsuccessfully, as it would default back to life. I’d turn down the volume and peace would briefly and blissfully be restored, but something in the car’s digital soul would rebel against this and turn the volume back up again.
‘Recalculating. Make a U turn. How many times do I have to tell you?’
This was driving me steadily nuts when I discovered that the car could issue instructions in a wide variety of languages. For no very good reason I selected Lithuanian, which was much less irritating. The voice sounded less hectoring when I couldn’t understand what it was saying, and it took on a much more conversational tone, as if it was pointing out interesting things to see rather than moaning about turning round and heading back the way I’d come.
The irony of all this is that the following morning I came across the single touch screen button that would have silenced my sat nav tormentor, and felt a bit inadequate. However, I suspect that button would have proved equally elusive to Mick, Keith Charlie and Ronnie, although being the Rolling Stones they’d have had staff to find and push it for them.