WHERE are we?
And, more disturbingly, where are we going? These are difficult questions, and only technology can answer them. Some of you – the ones with the money – will have a satnav device. Attempting a definition off the top of my head (always preferable to looking things up), a satnav is a contraption that you put in a car. But, wait, there's more. It contains a moving map that tells you where you are and how to get to where you're going. A female voice gives you directions.
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I've only experienced the phenomenon once. A friend with less money than sense had bought one on eBay for 54p. In a surprise development, it didn't work. Well, the map bit did but the voice didn't, unless you held it up to your earlobe, which the driver couldn't do, obviously. So, he made me – the passenger in this narrative – listen to it and relay the instructions, insisting however that I did it in a sexy, eastern European voice, like the burd in the contraption.
The journey was a disturbing one but, apart from ending up two hours late and in the wrong town, might be accounted a success, in that I was reminded forcibly that it is better to arrive than to travel.
Much of our travelling nowadays is done in shops. If you visit places like Ikea, you have to plan your route in the store, and arrange for friends to come and rescue you if you're not back in four hours. It's also common for people to break down in such emporia, but only emotionally.
Malls offer similarly exciting terrain for the explorer. Buying a cardigan these days is our equivalent of the medieval quest, with an escalator for our horse, and dragons in the form of salesmen trying to get us to join the AA or Sky. Modern shopping isn't for the faint-hearted. Still, I love shopping, and resent this time of year when malls and stores are full of pathetic amateurs, notably men, acting all hard and grim as they pick up random objects in Accessorize.
Bozos like these might benefit from new satnavs for shops currently being developed by Google and Nokia. These will provide maps of big stores and malls that pinpoint where you are and give you directions to haberdashery or, if you're a nutter, to pseudo-clinics offering Chinese herbal health treatment.
You can avoid all this by going online. It's Christmas every other day at Wit's End, ma hoose, as I order more or less non-stop from Amazon, and receive a constant stream of presents from myself. Indeed, with ma hoose being in Embra, you might legitimately say to me: Yule have had your Christmas, Rab.
That said to me, I only order books, CDs, DVDs and, very occasionally, trousers on the internet. The stuff other citizens are ordering for Christmas is bizarre. The website MyVoucherCodes.co.uk analysed the top searches from potential customers and found that DIY breast implants came first. All together now: we wish you a mammary Christmas.
The second most popular search was for a quidditch stick – an improbable mode of flight featuring in the Harold Potter books – while a jet pack was another object of desire, indicating that these citizens don't have their feet planted firmly on the terrain. Further up the food chain, "candy underwear" was frequently requested and, yes, I've had to Google that. It is edible underwear. You heard right. Comestible unmentionables. Consumable smalls. Gastronomic bloomers. Coming next: a semmit in a savoury sauce.
Where have these people gone, readers? That's right: too far. Perhaps they don't have the benefit of satnav. Indeed, without satnav myself, I've wandered off my topic, and might wish they'd devise one for column-writing, so that after "Get directions from", I could put "bombshell opening sentence" and, at "Going to", could say "clever and amusing payoff line". Perhaps, too, after "via", for verisimilitude, I could type "entirely different subject".
Ach, but why do we need to know where we are all the time? Today's philosophy seems to be: navigation, navigation, navigation. But there are more things in malls and stores than are dreamt of in your geography.