Kerth: All roads lead to Rome – or something like that

Like most Americans, whenever I feel a bit anxious and lost, I trust my faith in a higher power: my car’s navigational system. She always seems to get me back on track.

I call her “she,” of course, because her voice is female. And I’m glad she’s female because who wants to put all your faith in some disembodied guy’s voice when you’re lost? We men are idiots when it comes to finding our own way because we always think we can get there without asking for directions. So that directional dashboard dude is probably just as lost as I am and is faking it to preserve his fragile manhood.

Fortunately, my onboard angel (I call her Lexie) is rarely wrong, although she sometimes slips up because ... (Oh, how can I say this without offending her, and anybody else who might be reading this?)

Well … she sometimes gets confused because she’s old.

My car was built in 2004, when car GPS systems still were steam-powered. Still, there doesn’t seem to anything wrong with Lexie’s “mechanism.” (Is it too intimate for me to refer to her working parts like that? Am I crossing some sort of “me too” line? I wouldn’t want to offend her because there’s no telling how much hurt might be inflicted by a GPS scorned. Even an old one.)

The problem is not with her machinery when she gets confused, but rather with all of the changes that have come to the physical world since 2004, and sometimes Lexie hasn’t gotten the memo. So every now and then I’ll be zipping past some random stretch of road and she’ll purr, “Turn right.” But there is no place to turn because that old intersection that existed there a decade and a half ago has been demolished, replaced by the towering flyover bridge or cloverleaf looming up ahead that doesn’t show up on Lexie’s screen.

Still, I can’t blame her because a half-minute later she always gets her feet back under her to get me back on track.

So, like most Americans, I just wait for her to clear her throat and catch me up because I have a deep, abiding faith that she will guide me through, no matter how anxious or lost I may feel. And, so far, that’s worked out OK, even though I sometimes end up taking the scenic route.

Because keeping the faith can work wonders.

Well, it can up to a point. At some point, however, your unlimited faith can come back to bite you.

Consider the case of the British guy who decided to take a road trip pilgrimage to Rome. It was a trip he had taken many times before, but this time, he decided to let his car’s GPS find a new shortcut for him to take.

Luigi Rimonti, 81, started off from Newcastle, England, and after ferrying across to the continent, he set his navigation system to take him to Rome. And then, as any of us would do, he put his thinking on hold and let his faith carry him the rest of the way.

But it seemed a bit unusual when his dashboard angel told him to take some curious twists and turns.

Rimonti said, “It told me I had to come off the motorway, but everything became more rural.”

Still, a shortcut is a shortcut, right? At least it is until it’s a shortcut to nowhere, which is where Luigi’s navigation system cleared its throat and said: “Destination reached.”

Luigi took a look around at the tiny village, and, failing to see anything among the farm fields and forests that even remotely resembled the Colosseum or Forum, he blinked in wonder. “I thought, ‘Mamma mia, where am I?’” he said.

Starting to think that his faith in his GPS might have been misplaced, he got out of his car to see if he might find some local human for better directions – but he forgot to set the parking brake. His car rolled backward, knocking him down, and eventually came to rest after crashing into a roadside sign and flattening it.

The sign showed the name of the nearby town: “Rom.”

Not Rome, Italy. Rom, Germany, in a rural area called Westphalia. A near miss, only 1,000 miles off. Close, but no cannoli.

Luigi suffered some minor injuries when his car knocked him over and crashed. So did his car. So he headed to the local hospital for treatment, and then to a hotel in Waldbroel, Germany, where he settled in to figure out what to do next.

“My son wants to pick me up,” he said, “but that will take three or four days.”

But all’s well that ends well, right? After all, he’ll make it to the right Rome sooner or later. He’ll have an interesting tale to tell over a glass of Chianti, and his son will get an unexpected trip out of the whole deal.

But no.

It turns out that Luigi is not interested in going to Rome anymore. “I have had enough of it,” he says. “No more Rome, I just want to go home.”

He’ll be happy once his son gets to Germany to pick him up and sets the car’s navigation system to guide them back to England.

I’m sure Luigi will be smiling soon, because Iceland is nice this time of year.

• Tom “T.R.” Kerth is a Sun City resident and retired English teacher from Park Ridge. He is the author of the book “Revenge of the Sardines.” He can be reached at

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