An Open Letter To Tomtom

Dear Tomtom Executives;


Now, don’t get me wrong.  Our Tomtom has been invaluable here in Sicily.  There have been many places we never would have found without it.  But seriously.


Yesterday, Nick – my navigator and darling hubby – and I left Noto, a fair-sized city, to return to our new home in Cianciana, a town a comfortable 30 minute drive from Sciacca, the largest city in our province of Agrigento.  Tomtom assured us, on the screen, that we would be home in 3 ½ hours.  Pretty much what we expected.  The first 1 ½ hours were smooth sailing.  The autostrade, all over Italy, are superb, including the ones in Sicily.  A quick jaunt to Siracusa (or Syracuse for you non-Italian types) and we were on the autostrada to Catania; an easy switch and we were on the autostrada in the direction of Palermo, Sicily’s largest city.  I fully expected that we would take the turn off to Caltanisetta, a city in the centre of Sicily that has good roads taking you to almost every point on the island.  From there south to the city of Agrigento and along the well paved, albeit windy mountain road to Cianciana.  Piece o’ cake, right?  Oh no, my high-powered Tomtom friends.  Here is how it went.

The turn off to Caltanisetta whizzed past us as we drove along the autostrada, going under the speed limit at 120 km/hour.  That would be 80 mph for those unaccustomed to the metric system.  We had set our Tomtom to speak in the voice of a Canadian male.  We didn’t want to be confused by a British, Australian, South African, American or any other English-speaking accent while driving at high speeds. (Note sarcasm). So, as we drove past the exit for Caltinasetta, our Canadian Tomtom buddy was oddly silent.  But, we trusted him!  And so we continued on for another 2 or 3 exits until our Tomtom announced, “Get off the highway!!! Get offfffff!  Get offffff!!!!!”  No, I am not exaggerating.  This is exactly what he said.  And that is exactly what I did – hitting the brakes and swerving off the highway at the last minute.  Why at the last minute?  Because that was all the time that Tomtom guy gave me to turn.


We followed his instructions through several small towns, along winding roads.  Winding roads are normalle in Sicily.


This is an island full of volcanic mountains and river valleys.  And while Sicily is also covered with small back country roads, lanes and goat paths, what we didn’t expect, when there was a perfectly good highway almost all the way to Cianciana, was to be sent along progressively narrower and narrower roads, lanes and goat paths.

We drove through villages so small that to call them a village was an exaggeration of the highest order.  Sometimes Tomtom guy, very soon to be known as “The Asshole”, would call me a “doofus” or “the dork on the steering wheel”.  Okay, I know what you are thinking.  Perhaps I am a doofus or a dork on the steering wheel.  Well, oh Tomtom execs, I would like to see you make your way through a 6 lane traffic circle, battling 30 or 40 cars, and exit immediately after without bumping or scratching someone’s shiny, beautiful Alfa Romeo or Lamberghini because I have done that.  Or could you wind your way through a herd of cattle while the bull stood waved his very long horns at you menacingly?  Because I have done that too.  In fact, it was Tomtom guy, AKA the Asshole, who was the doofus.  Frequently we would be travelling along a road and the Asshole would tell us to turn right in 200 metres.  Oh, did I say turn right?  What he actually said was “Turn right-left in …200… metres.”  What the hell?  Turn right-left?  Which was it???  Thank gawd Nick was looking at the screen and could tell me which one the Doofus in the Tomtom actually meant.  If I had been on my own I would probably, today, be stuck in the middle of a field surrounded by sheep being oogled by a shepherd who hadn’t seen another person, much less a woman, in weeks.  I shudder.


On the subject of turning right or left, Doofus would, on occasion, tell us to turn.  What was the problem?  There was no turn.  Not right, not left, nowhere.  “Oh”, you say, “did you update your maps of Europe?”  And I answer, “Doesn’t freaking matter.”  You see, not only was there no turn, there had never been any turn.  In fact, on some of those turns, if I had listened to The A.H., I would have driven off a cliff.  Something that I seriously considered doing, a’ la Thelma and Louise, as the afternoon turned into evening turned into night.

Let me pause to wax lyrical about some of these “roads” down which the “Dork in the Tomtom” sent us.  You may think that I am joking about the goat paths.  We drove down paths that 20 km/hour (12 mph) was a breakneck speed.  There were holes in the road that had goat skeletons at the bottom!  An inch one way or another and we would have been, to quote John Cleese, “pushing up the daisies” or “joined the choir invisible”.  In fact, we would each have been “a NON parrot!” had we been parrots to start out with.  On one of these paths we past a shepherd who literally stopped in his tracks, mouth wide open, and watched, in amazement, as we inched by.


This morning, when I arose, after giving some truly heartfelt prayers of thanks that we had actually made it home, I looked at the map of Sicily.  I managed to get a rough idea of our route from the map.  We had taken roads that were not just secondary roads.  They were not the roads that were marked as smaller than secondary roads.  They were so small that they did not exist on our quite detailed map of Sicily.  And all of this I could have lived with but for the following.  The Dorky, Stupid-head Doofus of an Asshole of a Tomtom guy kept changing his freaking mind!  We would turn where we were told to turn and he would say “Oh my gawd, you’ve gone the wrong way!  Turn…the car…around!”    AAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Way up in the mountains, not an inhabited building, or a vehicle or person to be seen as we drove along the goat-paths, we watch the sun go down behind the mountains.  Beautiful sunset.  But do you know how many streetlights can be found on goat-paths in the mountains?   NONE!!!!  So we went from this…


to this…

in the space of about 2 ½ minutes.  You can imagine this slowed my driving down just a tad.  And there was another thing.  Agrigento, in the heat of the summer, is prone to fires in the mountain fields.  The Poopy-headed Doofus of a Tomtom guy directed us to not one, but two fires that we had to find our way around.  In the dark.


You see, the 3½ hour trip which had started about 5pm went on not 4 hours.  Not 5 hours.  Not even 6 hours.  It went on for 6 ½ hours.  SIX AND A HALF HOURS!

You see, Tomtom executives, we really didn’t start out from Noto with a plan to be the SS Minnow.  We (I suppose we being the Skipper and Gilligan) didn’t want to be off on the 3 ½ hour cruise only to be shipwrecked without even the Professor, Thurston Howell III, Mrs. Howell, Ginger and MaryAnn for company!  (Although I suspect my husband would have forgiven you much faster if you had provided Ginger and MaryAnn as travelling companions).

I just want to say, come to Sicily.  Take our Tomtom.  In fact, we would even put you up in our house!  Come here, and I dare you – I dare you – to drive from Noto to Cianciana using only your Tomtom for directions.


The Dork on the Steering Wheel.


10 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Tomtom

  1. how funny, but true, my daughter had similar experience a very scary one at that, its a lot easier to do it the old fashion way, stop and ask, a bit tricky in the dead of night when nobody is around i know, even the goats might have been more knowlegeable, technology what would we do without it, good luck and enjoy your stay in cianciana.

    • You are so right. Two days later we drove to Palermo. I refused to listen to the Tomtom and followed the signs instead. We had the Tomtom on and sure enough it kept trying to send us the wrong way! I think it is only good if you are not going far and there are not so many signs telling you the way or you have an exact address.

  2. 🙂 Diane, I had never heard of Tomtom before, and after reading this, I will certainly give him a wide berth!! Eeek! I feel your pain. I rely exclusively on paper maps in Sicily, but they’re not perfect either. I usually do a lot of stopping and asking for directions. Can’t trust the signs, that’s for sure!!!

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