Archive for July, 2013


I had to say so long to a trusted travel companion this weekend. After seven years of helping me not get lost as I traveled around town and half the country, my TomTom One had to be decommissioned.

It was a great little machine and it could still lead me to the right path. But the toll the years have taken on it grew to be insurmountable. On my way home from Louisiana, it popped out of the windshield holder again and the on-off button shattered. I had to use an ink pen to turn it on and off. Last weekend, during a trip to Jackson, Miss., the software started getting buggy and instead of showing me a map, it showed me vector coordinates.

I got another TomTom, the START 40M to be exact. I picked it up on Friday night. Why another TomTom? Why not?

I picked up the TomTom One at OfficeMax during a Black Friday sale after Thanksgiving. I want to say it cost less than $50. I thought it was  a bargain until three months later, when the machine told me the map was out of date and I’d have to subscribe to its quarterly update service to stay accurate.That started out at $25 a year and gradually grew to $50, which I paid about 6 months ago.

I’ve been doing research the past several months, knowing that the end was near. The windshield bracket issue started about 2 years ago, right after I dropped the TomTom coming down the stairs. The speaker popped off and one of the metal tabs that held it in the bracket came up missing. In the months that followed, I tried making a clip with a paper clip, but it would have to be adjusted every day and even then, the GPS unit would pop out of the bracket at the most inopportune time, like when I was turning.

I bought a busted unit on eBay and scavenged a clip for it. That worked better than the paper clip, but the unit would still pop out if I hit a bump the wrong way. I thought about scavenging the of/off button from the busted unit but in the end, realized that seven years is probably four years longer than TomTom expected a GPS unit to last.

I thought about switching brands. Garmin is popular with a lot of my friends and everyone I spoke with said they thought Garmin was the best. But most hadn’t had any dealings with TomTom, so I looked online and found an article in PC Magazine  that concluded Garmin and TomTom are pretty even and “there’s no reason to jump from one company to the other unless you find a blow-out sale on a particular model.”

So I stuck with TomTom. And after a day, I’m happy. The new map is more accurate than the old. It shows the streets in my apartment complex where the old one had me feeling like I’d driven off the edge of the planet after turning into my complex.

And it came with free lifetime map updates, which if the past is any indication, will save me a bundle over the next decade or so.

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A lasting impact

My dad and I were having another heated argument. I just turned 19 and was considering going to summer school at Nicholls State, but I needed to find a decent part-time job to do it.  I didn’t want to work in retail and I’d already done the dishwasher/busboy thing my senior year in high school.

My dad pointed at the phone and started shaking his finger. “That phone is not going to ring with someone offering you a job.”

And at that very moment, the phone rang. It was Mr. Utley. He wanted to know if I could go to work for him as a shop welder part-time, like we’d talked about a few days earlier.

“You bet,” I said. “But can you repeat that for my father?”

I ended up working for Mr. Utley for 10 years, longer than anyone else I’ve worked for since.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Utley.

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