2547: Siren

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Directions from CITY OF TROY to ITHACA / Total time: 10y 54d 14h 25m / Warning: Route crosses an international border / route includes capture by the goddess Calypso / route includes a ferry
Title text: Directions from CITY OF TROY to ITHACA / Total time: 10y 54d 14h 25m / Warning: Route crosses an international border / route includes capture by the goddess Calypso / route includes a ferry


Odysseus is the hero of the Greek epic Odyssey by Homer. This is a poem that relates the journey of Odysseus back home to his homeland from the newly defeated Troy, and how he inadvertently angered Poseidon thus causing the journey to take 10 years.

In the story, now widely translated and adapted for modern audiences, Circe warns Odysseus of the Sirens, who sing beautiful songs that lure sailors towards their shores, just to doom the boats to sink upon the jagged rocks surrounding their islands. In Odysseus's own case, the Sirens even claim to be able to "tell you everything that is going to happen over the whole world"; at this point, Odysseus has been away from home for many years and has no idea if his wife and son remember him, so the temptation to stay and listen (and thus find out if he will be able to return alive) is especially powerful.

This comic reframes the advice as if Odysseus was being told to ignore the incorrect instructions of a GPS-linked routefinder, rather than the Sirens. Errors, omissions or out-of-date information in the databases used by such devices famously have sent drivers down roads they might never have even tried to use (guided by printed maps, road-signs or even past experience) without the alluring voice of the 'infallible' dashboard device leading them through too-narrow lanes, into rivers or even hundreds of miles completely out of their way - perhaps to a destination similarly-named to their intended one. GPSs did not exist during the time the poem was written,[citation needed] so this could not be the case here.

A navigation system giving wrong directions can happen, for example, due to outdated or incomplete map data. Sometimes users can file an error report with the provider of the navigation system and hope that they fix the problem in a software update. This is what Circe already did multiple times. However, the error was not fixed, so she has to resort to telling Odysseus to ignore the route.

The title text shows what the route description could have looked like, had Odysseus indeed used a modern navigation system. It includes the start and destination of the route, the estimated duration and warnings about special circumstances of the journey.

Normally, the sea voyage from the City of Troy to Ithaca should take much less than ten years. For Odysseus it took so long because of the many obstacles he had to face, so the navigation system would have some sort of clairvoyance function built in.

"Route crosses an international border" and "Route includes a ferry" are standard warnings included in a route description. The former alludes to the facts that Odysseus's voyage took him to many lands and kingdoms while the latter may allude to the fact that in Book XI of the Odyssey, Odysseus visits Hades, which is traditionally reached by a ferry across the river Styx, piloted by Charon the ferryman. "Route includes capture by the goddess Calypso" is not normally something that a navigation system would warn about or could know about,[citation needed] but this indeed happened to Odysseus in Homer's tale; he was kept on her island Ogygia for seven years.

The weird directions in the title text may be a reference to 461: Google Maps.


[Circe is speaking to Odysseus.]
Circe: Remember, Odysseus:
Circe: As you pass the rocks you will hear a woman calling out to you, urging you to stray from your path, but plug your ears and hold your course, for her beguiling lies will draw you to a watery grave.
Circe: I don't know why they can't just fix it. I keep filing error reports.
[Caption below the panel:]
Circe was actually just telling Odysseus to ignore his GPS.

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3 hr 5 min (170 miles) via I-88 W Snezzy (talk) 10:05, 27 November 2021 (UTC)

Technically true, but I don't think Odysseus ever visited New York. The distance between Ancient Troy and Ithaca, Ancient Greece, is 565 nautical miles. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:28, 27 November 2021 (UTC)

the title text reminds me of the arson murder and jaywalking trope 18:10, 27 November 2021 (UTC)Bumpf

Not strictly relevant, but...oh, knickers to it, I'll ask: I've always wondered what Americans (OK, and others, but it's American TV that got me wondering about it) use when asking GPS for directions. British postcodes are fantastically precise (i.e. they usually take you to the right section of the right street) so you can just dial in your six or seven characters then look out for the building number once you're nearby, but obviously ZIP codes (and other similar postal code systems in other countries) don't offer that precision. So what do you actually ask the satnav to look for?Yorkshire Pudding (talk) 23:30, 28 November 2021 (UTC)

United States Zip+4 is precise down to the building, the problem is most people don't know how to use it properly, and couldn't tell you their own Zip+4 if their lives depended on it (at best, they can tell you their 5 digit Zip Code, but that only gets you to the right post office, which might service 9999 addresses. It gets worse in rural areas, where those 9999 addresses might cover many hundreds of square miles. Remember, in Europe a hundred miles is a long way, and in America, a hundred years is a long time). Instead we usually enter a city, then a street, then a house number. House numbers are only loosely linked to Zip+4 because they existed a good hundred years before Zip+4 and are set by the local post office not the national bureaucracy.Seebert (talk) 14:03, 29 November 2021 (UTC)
Generally you would either type in the name of the street, or ask a virtual assistant where such and such place is. 07:16, 29 November 2021 (UTC)
In my car's built-in navigation (rather old) I have a few selection options. The one I use most often allows to select the country, city/town/village name, street name and either a house number or intersection with another street - all from searchable drop-down lists with history of recent selections, so it's quite convenient. But there are other options: geographical coordinates, previous destinations, and probably country and postal/zip code, I can't remember now. Postal codes in Poland are not very precise and designate irregularly shaped areas served by branches and sub-branches of national post offices which does not coincide with administrative divisions, so they're pretty useless both for navigation and even actual routing of mail. For years, I was giving out a wrong postal code for my address of residence, because it has been changed (three out of five digits were different), but the mail delivered fine all that time. Also, some villages, even quite big (hundreds of homes), have no street names, just house numbers, and the numbers are given out on the first come first served basis, so the distribution is completely random. I feel sorry for the newly-hired postmen... -- [[User:{{{1}}}|{{{1}}}]] ([[User talk:{{{1}}}|talk]]) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
The USPS has been using 11-digit Delivery Point codes since before 2011, that’s the concatenation of the 5-digit ZIP, the 4-digit ZIP+4, and the 2-digit Delivery Point code. Perhaps I’m unusually nerdy, but I’ve know this number for my own house since I moved in (in 2009) and I have it for most people in my address book, it’s not hard to get from the usps.com website. 04:24, 1 December 2021 (UTC)
UK postcodes tend to encompass around 15 households (or occasionally a single high-volume mail recipient). Though they don't encourage it, a house number (or name) and the postcode is plenty of detail for a letter to get processed by the PO. And, with the right database, should be good enough for a dashboard diva's driving directions. 15:18, 29 November 2021 (UTC)