This summer, Finnish-American Aaron Joensuu spent a month traveling around the United States together with a friend. The two of them covered thousands of miles, primarily on Greyhound buses – the largest intercity bus company in the United States. Aaron remembers their journey to Chicago particularly well.
Eighteen-year-old Aaron Joensuu lives in Kirkkonummi and goes to school in Helsinki, though he has previously lived for six years in different parts of the United States. He is fluent in both English and Finnish. Although the United States is like a second home to him, it is such a vast country that there are many parts of it he’s not familiar with at all.
At around one o’clock on Wednesday, July 18, 2012, Aaron and his friend took the bus from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Chicago, Illinois. The route included a change of bus in Lansing, Michigan, with still about five or six hours ahead of them before they would reach their destination.
“The weather changed a lot along the way and a powerful storm rolled in from the east in the evening. When the bus was nearing Gary, Indiana, there was practically no visibility on the highway,” Aaron explains.
“Many cars had stopped by the roadside to wait for the storm to blow over, but the bus kept on going at about 20 miles per hour, even though you really couldn’t see anything through the windows. And Gary has a reputation of being a very dangerous place.”
At around eleven in the evening, the driver finally stopped and informed us all that the bus had strayed from its route. “Apparently, the driver had missed an exit because of the poor visibility. He told the passengers he would ask for instructions from the bus control center,” says Aaron.
“The driver also wanted to know if anyone on the bus knew the area. Most of the passengers had already fallen asleep or were dozing, and no one responded to the driver’s question.”
Suddenly, Aaron remembered that he had downloaded maps of the United States on his smartphone before leaving Finland. He realized that the driver could use his Nokia Lumia 710 to get back on track.
“I asked my friend to watch my stuff and walked to the front of the bus to ask the driver if he still needed help. The driver was talking on the phone. I noticed he had a navigator, but he wasn’t able to use it because of the storm, or he didn’t know how.”
Listening to the conversation between the driver and the control centre, Aaron learned that the centre was not able to give instructions because they were not able to locate the bus.
“I told the driver that I had Nokia Drive on my Lumia smartphone and that he could use my phone for navigation,” says Aaron.
Relieved, the driver let the control centre know that a friendly young man with a navigator on his phone had just offered to help.
Aaron launched the Nokia Drive application on his phone and was able to determine the location of the bus. The driver asked the control centre for the address of the next bus station, which Aaron entered on his phone. Clear directions to the Gary bus station appeared on the screen, the distance being about six miles.
The driver told the control centre that the bus was ready to continue on its way with the help of the navigator on Aaron’s phone. At this point, the bus was an hour behind schedule.
“I suggested that I leave my phone with the driver for the rest of the trip and return to my seat. But he insisted that I stay there beside him and confirm the instructions from the navigator, so that he could fully focus on driving,” recalls Aaron.
“On the way to Gary, the driver listened to the instructions from the navigator without looking at the map on the screen or asking for further instructions,” Aaron says with a smile, remembering how he ended up being the co-driver on a crowded intercity bus.
Everything went smoothly, although at one point the bus had to negotiate a stretch of road covered by water. After arriving safely in Gary, the driver thanked Aaron for his help and told him that he was able to manage on his own for the rest of the journey. Aaron returned to his seat happy as the bus continued toward Chicago.
If you have encountered a similar situation where phone navigation has proved invaluable, why not share your experience with our readers?
image credit (rainy window): Eric M Martin