For a week this winter, the country was transfixed by a huge white Chinese spy balloon lazily drifting from Alaska to the Atlantic Ocean. Politicians screamed, “Shoot it down!” President Biden and his military advisers said, “That’s not safe,” and waited until February 4, when they were able to retrieve all the equipment that tumbled into the sea.
What ineptitude! How could it get lost? How could it get out of control? I think I know.
We have all had experiences with navigation apps, like Google maps. Or maybe the old Mapquest or even the disaster that was the early Apple Maps. Like my friend who was expecting a painter to show up at his house one Saturday, only to get a call that his painter was 70 miles away in Palmdale, because Google maps directed him onto the the Antelope Highway. (He was actually looking for a way into the gated community of Muntain Springs in La Verne.)
Me? I never use navigation apps. I still have my ancient copy of the book of maps, The Thomas Guide. Why? When I got my very first smart phone, I tried to find a classmate’s house for her toddler’s birthday party. It was less than 10 miles from my house, just two California towns away. I hopped off the 210 Freeway, looking for the intersection of 13th avenue and 13th street in Upland. I was three blocks away, just didn’t know which street would get me through. So, I eagerly turned on the navigation app and began turning right, then left, then right, then realized, it was taking me back onto the freeway.
Now I know that’s what happened to the Chinese spy balloon.
The People’s Liberation Army figured they would use Google Maps to get first to Guam and then to Hawaii. Snap! Now Wikipedia insists that wind currents blew the balloon off course, North to Alaska, as the old song goes.
Otherwise, why would this be such an inept spy operation? In the weeklong adventure, the spy balloon drifted lazily across the country, from Alaska through Canada,all the way to South Carolina. Obviously it had no pilot to realize that Google had done it again. And no driver to point it offshore and south to the warm waters of Hawaii (which is the home to Pearl Harbor, NAVSEAPAC and all sorts of wonderful military operations.)
We have to conclude that the Alphabet corporation is truly a patriotic American company, because Google Maps did it again. They got the Chinese spy balloon lost. Again. (The Biden Administration took it from there and shot the balloon down in coastal waters where all the equipment could be retrieved for counterspying intelligence…)
This time, it was Google Maps that caused the Chinese spy balloon disaster.
A toast to Google Maps…and the hope of many more misdirected balloons, for the other side, that is.