Toilets Beware, Germans Follow Directions to the Dot | News and current affairs from Germany and around the world | DW | 23.10.2006
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Toilets Beware, Germans Follow Directions to the Dot

GPS navigation systems are beginning to get a bad rep in Germany. That's probably because Germans are actually too good at following instructions. Even when they are told to crash into a toilet shack.

A GPS navigation system in a car

For the next toilet, please drive up the first staircase!

If car navigation systems could have their rathers, they would probably all want to be working in Germany. Not only because the German Autobahn is a speed-racer dream come true, but because Germans are very good at following instructions. If the system tells them to turn right, they turn right. If it tells them to turn left, they turn left.

And although one or two Germans will find themselves asking philosophical questions about what it means to turn right or left at any point in their life, most will happily oblige and surrender to that bizarrely infantilizing feeling we all know from looking at the assembling instructions for an Ikea cupboard. It's called total dependency.

It is nice, from time to time, to surrender one's control. To feel there is a gentle digitalized voice to guide you through the winding, curving, meandering roads of life. To know that you can will a virtual pat on the shoulder every time you do something right. Navigation systems are low-maintenance life companions: they never get tired and they don't need anything for Christmas.

Taking things literally

A toilet booth on a construction site

No toilet booth is safe any more

A 53-year-old German driver recently took the command "Turn right now!" from his navigation system all too literally. 30 meters before the crossing he was meant to take, the excessively obedient driver from Freiburg drove his SUV off the road into a nearby construction site, drove it up a stairway and crashed it into a poor, unsuspecting toilet shack that had never seen this type of action before.

Police in the eastern German town of Rudolstadt said the incident had caused 2,000 euros ($2,500) in damages to the stairway, 100 euros to the car and that the driver was also fined accordingly. The ongoing fine for extreme obedience is 35 euros.

Earlier this month another German ignored the sign "Closed for construction" on a Hamburg highway and followed his navigation system into a pile of sand. No injuries were reported.

A navigation system is, it seems, the new dominatrix: virtual whip in hand, it tells you what to do. It is up to you to decide how much pain you're willing to take on.

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