[personal profile] starwatcher_fic

Title: Blame it on Garmina
Summary: Department of Stupid Excuses
Style: Gen
Size: 2, 505 words, about 5 pages
Warnings: None
Notes: Giftfic for [livejournal.com profile] betagoddess, April, 2009
Feedback: Not necessary, but I certainly do like to get it!
Email: If you prefer not to post a comment that everybody can see, you can reach me at starwatcher -at- dreamwidth.org

Blame it on Garmina

by StarWatcher

This story was "To Helen
with fervent wishes for the best possible outcome,
and a speedy recovery.
I hope this little story will help brighten your day."

Sadly, Helen lost her battle with cancer.
She is greatly missed, and will be long remembered.

"We're close, Jim, I'm sure of it. Turn down this street."

Jim turned the F-150 to the right, making sure that his exasperated sigh was loud enough for Blair to hear. "Sandburg, I know it's exciting to share a new 'discovery' with friends, but has it ever occurred to you that it might be easier if you'd notice a street name, or a landmark, or something, so you could get back there? You could faint from hunger while looking for your restaurant."

"Oddly enough, there are very few street signs in primitive villages," Blair retorted. "And I noticed plenty of landmarks -- it was right next door to a leather-goods shop, and just across the street from a pet store, and that was next to a Napa Auto Parts. I was following Jason to his place to borrow some equipment, so I admit I didn't notice the street name, but I know we're within a block or two. Actually, if you'd quit complaining long enough to roll down the window and take a deep breath, you should be able to smell it -- authentic Greek cooking, using only fresh ingredients. You can sink your teeth into the Greek version of a hamburger -- made with onion and herbs in the meat, about ten steps up from WonderBurger -- while I eat a healthy vegetarian version of stuffed zucchini with egg and lemon sauce. Or, Jason said they make an ostrich steak in a sauce of orange juice and red wine that's orgasmic." He kissed the tips of his fingers enthusiastically, miming exuberant bliss. "I guarantee, we'll both be happy."

"Sandburg..." Jim growled. He reminded himself that beating his head against the steering wheel would make driving difficult, not to mention making his headache worse. "Look, I appreciate the support you've given me the past couple of months; I couldn't have gotten a handle on these senses without your help. But you've got to get over this idea that this sentinel thing is 'easy'. If we're a couple of blocks away, how do you expect me to smell grape leaves and garlic while I'm being hit with the smell of gas fumes, oil residue, car exhaust, dirty streets, stinking alleys with dozens of overflowing garbage dumpsters..."

Blair subsided immediately, casting Jim an apologetic look. "Sorry, man; I forgot. It's just that it should be easy; the original sentinels had to be able to isolate smells -- or any other kind of input -- from competing information in order to function effectively. There's gotta be a way for you to... I dunno --" His hands cut patterns through the air as he tried to express a new, nebulous idea. "-- kind of filter out what you don't want, and enhance what you need. Maybe if we --"

"Any unit in the vicinity of fifty-eight twenty-two Tampeka, respond to a one-thirty, possible four-sixty. No injuries reported at this time."

"Just two blocks away," Jim grunted. With an economy of motion that never failed to impress Blair, he spun the wheel to make a U-turn while using his left hand to set the magnetic police light on the roof. He flipped on the siren as he gunned the engine, then reached for the mic. "One-zebra-one, responding. ETA two minutes."

"What're we heading for?" Blair asked as he braced himself. Even two minutes of Jim's version of speed-driving could bounce him around within the limits of his seatbelt.

"Property damage with possible moving violation. Some idiot probably ran over a mailbox or something."

"Or something," Blair agreed as they reached the scene. They were looking at a fire-engine red Cadillac DeVille Concours that was buried hood-deep into the wall of a dress shop. For a moment, he felt ill as he wondered how there could have been 'no injuries reported'; he distinctly saw twisted bodies on the ground, and one poor woman writhing in agony on the roof of the vehicle. Then, like a scene shift in a movie, his brain caught up with his eyes, and Blair realized he was seeing window dummies that had been displaying the latest fashions. He offered a heart-felt 'thank you' to whatever gods were listening before he asked, "How d'you suppose the driver managed to do that?"

"We'll find out," Jim said grimly as he parked his Ford. "My money's on DWI." Slamming the door behind him, he stalked toward the chaotic scene with Sandburg following at his heels.

The scene resolved itself into three principal parties -- two of them arguing with various degrees of anger and upset -- with the usual crowd of rubberneckers surrounding them and offering useless advice. A tall, dark-haired woman was shouting at the pudgy, red-faced man in front of her. "I don't care if God himself told you to turn! You drove right into my store, for Christ's sake, and I'm not seeing my insurance go up because of an asshole like you; you're paying every penny of damages!"

"Look, Lady, it's defective equipment!" the pudgy man roared back, his face becoming even redder. "If you sue the manufacturer, they'll learn to put out a decent product. I'm not responsible if the damn thing didn't work like it was supposed to!"

"Cascade PD!" Jim announced as he worked his way through the crowd. "Stand back, people; give us some room to work, here."

"Not responsible?!" the tall woman shrieked. "I saw you behind the wheel, driving right at the store like it's an open street. It's only God's grace that let me get out of the way fast enough to avoid being run over; you're either drunk, blind, or an idiot!"

The crowd parted reluctantly, then closed in again as Jim and Blair reached the open area that encompassed the accident scene; apparently, no one wanted to miss the show.

The pudgy man puffed up to an alarming degree, while the other woman -- short, slender and sweet-faced, but wearing an anxious expression -- tugged on his arm. "Harold, you need to calm down. You know what the doctor said about your blood pressure; this isn't good for you."

"You're right, ma'am," Jim said as he swept the group with a stern expression. "Everyone needs to calm down while we get this sorted out. Now, I'm Cascade PD," he tapped the badge at his belt, "so let's take this one at a time. Who's the owner of the store?"

"I am," the tall woman said. "Barbara Mattock -- 'Madam Mattie' -- and this fool insists it's not his fault that he destroyed my store! Well, that's not my car making a hole in my wall!"

"And you are?" Jim asked, deftly cutting off the man's next disclaimer.

"Jonas Polk. And like I told screaming Mimi over there --"

"There's no need for insults, sir; we'll get to the details in a moment." Jim focused on the smaller woman. "And your name, ma'am?"

"Oh, I'm Jonas's wife, Mandy. That is, Miranda Polk." She spoke hesitantly, with an ingratiating little smile. "And Jonas -- well, he might have reacted a little strongly, but Garmina has been less helpful than we thought."

Blair watched from the background as Jim wrote the information in his notebook. He wasn't using his sentinel senses, so didn't need Blair's input, but Blair was impressed at his friend's handling of the situation; just his presence seemed to be defusing the situation. Maybe he could make a paper out of this; the interactions of people under stress were always intriguing.

He thought that Ms. Mattock, for instance, would've been just as comfortable running a large corporation as a small store; she exuded controlled strength and a no-nonsense attitude. Mr. Polk, on the other hand, had very little self-control; he seemed to think that things would go his way if he simply shouted loudly enough and threw his weight -- literal as well as figurative -- over any and all obstacles. Mrs. Polk... well, she... fluttered. Not too surprising; she probably spent a lot of time trying to make sure that her husband didn't erupt.

Blair wondered if they had kids, and how they'd developed in such an environment. He wondered if Jim would ever have kids. Jim would be a good father, strict, but consistent and fair. How strong was the sentinel gene? Would one -- or more -- of Jim's kids be a sentinel? What kind of upbringing and early training would help a young sentinel develop his senses to the fullest? But Jim hadn't had his senses until adulthood; could early training prepare a potential sentinel for coming online as an adult, so it wouldn't be as difficult as it was for Jim? Burton hadn't mentioned it in his book, but Blair was beginning to realize that Burton really hadn't explained much concrete information about sentinels. No wonder Jim got so frustrated sometimes; half the time, Blair was improvising wildly as he tried to help the big guy control his senses. But Jim should have his senses firmly under control by the time Blair finished his dissertation. Maybe he could get a grant and travel to primitive tribes, to learn their histories of sentinels and how they developed and handled their skills; it was important to have more information if any other sentinels ever showed up. Maybe a second doctorate, with another dissertation...

"Garmina, Mrs. Polk? Is she still in the car?" Jim quickly scanned the vehicle with his senses. No heartbeat, but also no scent of blood.

"Yes... but Garmina's not a person. I just call her that because she has such a pleasant voice. We're driving cross-country soon, and I bought Jonas a UPS system to help him navigate, but --"

"G-PS system, Mandy, I keep telling you it's a G-PS system!" her husband interrupted, although -- under Jim's cool gaze -- not as forcefully as previously. "It's a Garmin nĂ¼vi seven-sixty, only she calls it 'Garmina'." Mr. Polk sneered at his wife, then continued his outraged justification. "It's supposed to be the best on the market," he told Jim indignantly, "but it's a piece of shit. Always giving me directions that'll take me the long way around--"

"Not always, Jonas," his wife said, timidly.

He ignored her completely. "-- like I haven't lived here all my life and don't know how to get across town! And it's got a whiney voice that keeps telling me to turn where there isn't a turn!" He pitched his voice to a sickly-sweet falsetto. "Turn right. Turn right. Turn right." He turned and glared at the car. "I haven't had a bit of satisfaction from the manufacturer -- told them they sold me a piece of crap and I wanted it fixed, but they said it was operating 'within normal parameters'. So I figured I'd just show them; the next time it told me to turn I damn well would, and I did, and you can see what a piece of crap it is!" He gestured wildly at the broken wall surrounding the car.

"Somehow, I doubt the GPS system wrenched the wheel out of your hands and aimed at this store, Mr. Polk," Jim said dryly. "I need you to stand straight, please, with your feet together and your hands extended at shoulder level. Then close your eyes and touch your nose with your index finger, each hand." Jim couldn't smell any alcohol on his breath, but he also couldn't use his sentinel senses as proof that the man hadn't been drinking.

"You calling me drunk? It's twelve-fifteen in the afternoon, and you're calling me drunk? I haven't touched a drop since dinner last night." Mr. Polk's belligerence was increasing again; it seemed he finally might be realizing that he couldn't walk away from his actions.

"He really hasn't, Officer," Mrs. Polk confirmed in a soft voice.

"Then it won't be difficult to demonstrate your sobriety. Do it, please." While Mr. Polk complied, Jim beckoned Blair closer. "Chief, I think I have a book of tickets in the glove box," he murmured. "Go get it for me, would you?"

As Blair hurried to comply, Jim directed Mr. Polk through the standard field sobriety test, finishing with Mr. Polk walking a straight line, heel to toe. As expected, he passed easily, although he continued to protest; the man's problem wasn't drunkenness, but giving in to temper tantrums that he should have outgrown by the time he was five.

"Thanks, Chief." Jim took the booklet from Blair and started writing. "Mr. Polk, this is a summons to appear in court at ten-thirty AM this Thursday. I expect that the judge won't care what 'Garmina' told you; you were in control of the vehicle." He evaluated the wrecked car, and the damage to the building. "I sincerely hope 'sending a message' to the manufacturers makes you feel better; I estimate that message will cost you about a hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. And I expect your insurance rates will triple -- if they don't cancel your policy outright."

Jim ignored Mr. Polk's gaping mouth to turn to Mrs. Polk. "Ma'am, the judge might be a little more lenient if your husband is already enrolled in an anger-management class. I suggest you look into it immediately."

She cast a nervous glance at her husband, but nodded. "Yes, Officer. Thank you; I will."

"Ms. Mattock." Jim was writing another summons. "You're the injured party here -- fortunately not physically." He gave her a slight, understanding smile, which she returned. "But you should also be there, to explain what happened from your point of view, and the extent of the damages. I suggest you go armed with Polaroid pictures that you'll take before you start cleaning up this mess."

She took the slip of paper, calm now that it was clear the driver wouldn't evade the consequences of his actions. "Thank you, Officer; I'll be there."

Jim turned to the crowd. "Okay, folks, it's over. Go back to whatever you were doing."

Slowly, the onlookers began to disperse, and then Blair was gripping his arm in excitement. "Jim, look! I told you we were close!" He gestured wildly in the opposite direction from where they'd parked the truck.

Four doors down was a Napa Auto Parts store, next to a pet store. Across from those he saw another store -- 'Barelli's Fine Leathers' -- and a restaurant -- 'It's Greek to Me'.

"So, what do you say? You're finished with the police thing, and I don't know about you, but I'm hungry. Lunch?"

"You swear they have edible meat, something that's not seventy-five percent vegetables?"

"I swear, man! And if they don't, I promise I won't say a word while you drive us to WonderBurger. But since we found it, we should at least look at the menu."

"We 'found' it? You have a loose interpretation of the word, Sandburg; you had us heading the other way." But, now that he was close enough, Jim could smell a heady aroma emanating from the restaurant -- clean, spicy and mouthwatering, with plenty of meat in the mixture. "But I suppose if I don't try it, you won't let it drop for the next three days. Okay, lunch."

The End

Author's Notes

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(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-08 10:47 am (UTC)
bluewolf458: (Storm)
From: [personal profile] bluewolf458
Just found this... and laughed my head off. Just a month ago I was a passenger in a car that had a sat-nav, and we took a new (just opened two or three months ago) road that wasn't in its memory (or however they work). It let us cut a corner, so to speak, and from the moment we went onto that road until we rejoined what it thought was the right road, it kept saying "Turn right. Turn right. Turn right!" in a tone of voice that I'd swear was getting more and more irate and I'd even go as far as say panicked. Turning right was going to take us through a solid barrier and onto the other carriageway...

And we all know stories about sat-navs that have taken big vehicles down roads totally unsuitable for them. I can sympathise with Mr Polk - Garmina clearly wasn't programmed properly - but it's one reason I prefer to stick with a map :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-08 11:48 pm (UTC)
starwatcher: Western windmill, clouds in background, trees around base. (Default)
From: [personal profile] starwatcher
Hee! I'm glad you got a kick out of it; I had fun writing it.

Maps are good, but sometimes...

Many years ago, pre-GPS days, I took the wrong off-ramp into Dallas-Ft. Worth. (I don't remember which.) I had a map and explicit directions written out, but was driving alone and couldn't stop in the heavy traffic to get a look. Long story short, I asked directions five times, and got more lost each time. Finally stopped at a residence, asked the little old lady (spitting image of my grandmother, it was uncanny) to call a taxi. When he arrived, I asked him to drive to my hotel, and I would follow; I paid his fee and tipped lavishly.

Cases like that, I wouldn't mind going the long way around, if I just got there. But yes, they can be obnoxious nags. <g>

Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed the story; I really appreciate it.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-09 06:18 am (UTC)
bluewolf458: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bluewolf458
Well, yes, inside towns... I think we all have stories about driving in strange towns.

I remember once when we were going to a con. I don't know if you have cases in America where when you're in the the inside lane you don't get the option to drive straight on when there's a drop off; I was caught in the inside lane like that, had to drop off the motorway and ended up in the wrong part of town, able to see the hotel but not knowing how to get there. My pal went into a pub for directions; everyone could tell her how to get to the hotel on foot but not in a car...

Another time, going to a con in Coventry; directions were 'follow the signs for the cathedral'. So we did. Except that just a few yards after we passed one such sign, the road forked, with nothing to say which fork to take...

Or there was the time in Edinburgh I wanted to visit one of the old ruins. I was staying with my cousin, who gave me precise directions, which I followed until I found myself in the middle of the town, not the outskirts. Stopped. Thought about it... and realised that every time he'd said 'turn right' I'd turned left, every time he'd said 'turn left' I'd turned right... (I've always had problems with right and left - probably comes with being ambidextrous.) Anyway, I reversed the directions, got back to where I'd started, and set out again. Made it the second time.

In the country, though, no problem.



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