Looking back at when I was of legal driving age, circa 2000, I now believe that drivers back then were superior beings – topographically-orientated, gutsy (in my opinion) and generally, less lost. This was all when carrying a basic phone that could only make calls was luxury (and payphones were becoming obsolete)! Imagine a world without the internet at your fingertips 24/7.
Fast forward a decade and a half, and I just got my own car (and a whole other level of freedom and independence) about 6 months ago in Kuala Lumpur, the busiest city in Malaysia which I have been living in for about 2 years relying on public transportation. Since then, I have managed to go to many new places at any hour, had stress-free drives and avoided jams. People are actually amazed that I could make an hour’s drive to a place I have never been to before and show up right where I am supposed to be, on time, and without making a single call to ask for directions.
That is all because I have Waze installed on my phone.
Isn’t technology great? Don’t get me wrong; I am really a technology infant compared to many others, and as old-school as it can get (I still use paper and pen to organize my daily life instead of programming everything into my phone). Therefore, this article is for those who are starting out and are prone to getting lost, just like I was before I found myself alone behind the wheel of my very own car.
First of all, why Waze? My basic reasons are:
Real Time Reports – this is also a social app where people report traffic jams, road closures or any other thing related to your drive that can cost you time and fuel.
Easy Interface – its friendly interface hit home with someone like me who is afraid of things seemingly too technical to understand (although I am sure I can if I tried but since things are already easy and cute, why not?).
Place Search = it is very useful for when you need to find a certain place like the nearest petrol station or convenience store.
These are useful little things and tips I learnt from using Waze:
- Be prepared to get lost during the orientation phase.
For the first few weeks of driving with Waze, I missed numerous turns, mistrusted Waze and relied on misleading road signs instead, and wasted a lot of money on petrol and toll. This was necessary evil for me, as only with mistakes I learned to estimate distance according to Waze (that at least by 500 meters you should be in, or at least switching to, the lane in which you will be making a turn), the difference between ‘stay’ and ‘turn’, and also that I worked so much better with audio cues (even it was someone with a heavy European accent pronouncing local road names) because my vision still failed me regardless of how near the phone was to my face.
Like most friendships, once the ice has been broken, it only gets better. One tip for the orientation phase: stay calm and remember that you will get there eventually.
2. Be prepared for a co-dependent relationship with Waze, especially if you have been directionally-challenged since birth.
You will need phone chargers, the type of chargers that plug into the cigarette lighting device of your car, reliable cables that charges up your batteries fast, power banks; anything that ensures your phone is well and alive. Also make sure you always have fast and sufficient internet data on your phone and that your GPS is working.
I know this does not even need to be said but with people like myself, it really needs to: another tip is to at least try your very best to learn usual daily routes so if need so, you can do independently without Waze. For some people, it is very easy – they drive a route once and forever they remember it. For people like me who rely on memorizing landmarks including buildings and bus stops, you drive a route a hundred times and still manage to get lost if someone cuts down a tree (everything looks different!).
3. Personalize, personalize, and personalize.
You can really make Waze really comfortable for you. If sounds startle you easily, you can shut it off. You can get rid off the clutter on your map to make it about just you and your journey. You can choose from a variety of voices for your audio guide and it can read road names if you want it to.
While you are taking a few minutes to warm up your car, you can decide on your drive – shortest way or fastest way, miles or kilometers, toll or no toll (do I have a few ringgit to spare or can I afford the extra 8 minutes of avoiding the toll?). Once you have customized your Waze to your own liking, it feels like an extension of your brain.
4. Socialization and ETA.
I drive to work stress-free and with confidence because I know I will be there on time, thanks to the ETA (estimated time of arrival) feature. I become a nicer driver and a nicer person, generally – I let people cut my line on the road without getting upset and I become a more relaxed and careful driver. All because I know I will get to my destination on time. Unless, that is, you are already late as it is – Waze isn’t magic.
Also because Waze is a social app, you can send your ETA to your friends so they know when to expect you. Speaking of friends, as an introvert, I find it nice to be able to “honk” at friends who are on the road, you know, as a way to keep in touch without actually having to meet up in real or even chat – it’s a vehicular way of saying hello.
5. Trust your gut instinct.
Sometimes, technology will fail you – like the time when I used Waze to get my parents’ home from a mall close to where they are staying and somehow it directed me to a dark and shady place and we went round in circles – it was like a scene from Twilight Zone and it only confirmed my parents’ distrust in me managing my life an adult. Sometimes when the map seems off, stop somewhere safe (and always lock your doors) and restart. Always study the map before you start the journey to get a rough idea of what you are doing and whether it is the best way. After all, it was human who invented technology so the brains still win.
Disclaimer: in case anyone is wondering, I am definitely not getting any perks from raving about Waze, except the fact that someone might benefit from using it as much as it has helped me. Plus, although I have serious points in this article, I also try to be humorous, although I am not kidding about being directionally-challenged since birth.