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Waze and Dads: A Love Story

Dads always hated asking for directions—until now

It’s official. John Kortier’s expensive GPS system, a feature of his brand-new car, isn’t great at helping him reroute around traffic. Instead, Kortier relies religiously on Waze, a free app that combines maps with social networking to help fellow drivers avoid traffic and arrive at their destinations faster.

Kortier, a 57-year-old dad, loves Waze.

If you have a dad, and your dad has a car and a smartphone, he’ll probably say the same.

Because dads love Waze. They really do. My own dad, Brian, 64, loves it so much that the subject of me driving anywhere turns into a 26-minute infomercial. If I show up late for anything — be it four or 40 minutes — I get an earful.

“Well, did you Waze?” he’ll say, and then I’ll lie, because I don’t drive that often and the app is a data- and battery-sucker so I don’t keep it on my phone. Lately, he has even employed my mother to ask me that question if he is otherwise unavailable. Most recently, like, last week, I had to drive up to their house to see a doctor, and thanks to the rain and traffic, it took me three hours when it should have taken one and a half. I call to tell them I have to go straight to the doctor’s office and won’t be able to stop by their house and—

“Are you Wazing?” he asked.

No, I am not. I am Google Maps-ing. (Google bought Waze in 2013 for $1.1 billion, but, for now, they still function somewhat differently.) And I’m fine with not using Waze, because this New York traffic is citywide, and no matter how good it is, Waze can’t get rid of the truck in front of me.

But my dad believes that, yes, Waze can do that.

“In New York, there are so many different ways to get from one location to another, so it’s good to know you are going the fastest way,” my dad later told me, after I asked him to defend his devotion. (Despite the fact that he sounds like he is reading directly from a press release, I promise you he is not employed by the app.) He also loves the cop feature, and “that cool image of whatever you want for your car instead of a plain circle.” (Waze lets you identify your car with different icons: a taxi, a Fiat 500, a Beetle, a “yellow car.”) It’ll even let you know if you’re going over the speed limit, he tells me. That seems cool—wait, this is a trick: He’s trying to convince me to use the app again.

Business Insider writer Emmett Knowlton’s father, Oliver, recently used Waze to get from DUMBO in Brooklyn to the Jersey Shore. But instead of taking his usual route — through Staten Island — Waze alerted him of road closings and rerouted the trip to go through Manhattan and over the George Washington Bridge. Knowlton tells me they didn’t lose any time on the drive, a proud moment for his dad.

“My dad loves to feel like he’s gaming the system,” Knowlton told me. “Which is completely understandable considering how much time he has spent in the car.” With their recent move to Brooklyn, Knowlton reveals, his dad’s favorite thrill is “like, seeing traffic on the Kosciuszko Bridge and then hearing the Waze jingle of a reroute and telling him to get off in Astoria.”

But a father’s love for Waze knows no state lines. No one knows this scenario better than Kortier’s 25-year-old daughter, Katie, who lives in Atlanta.

“I associate [Waze] with my dad,” she says, explaining that her dad is pretty up-to-speed on pop culture but has never recommended using something as enthusiastically as he does when he tells her to use Waze. Like any good daughter, she doesn’t; “but it’s good,” she says, “because I never have to give him directions!”

Like other things dads love, such as 401ks and Roth IRAs (free money!), Seinfeld (“No soup for you!”) and upgrading your car stereo (after watching a YouTube video on self-installation!), Waze has a legal approach to an unavoidable part of life that allows you to feel like you’re beating the system — and, perhaps most importantly, while everyone else is slogging behind.

Waze also saves dads from doing the thing we all know they hate to do the most: ask for directions.

“I remember on vacations being lost and my mom yelling at my dad to just ask someone for help,” Knowlton says. “And my dad would refuse, convinced he could figure it out.”

“We’re going to make it home in 45 minutes,” my dad will exclaim gleefully as he veers off literally any exit on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, leaving those in standstill traffic in the dust of his Toyota Camry, heading off to find some service road that Waze is recommending he take for about 35 miles. “It would have taken us 58 minutes otherwise!” (It took us 54 minutes.) Waze, I’ve decided, is like discovering one of those hidden tunnels in Mario Kart that gets you to the finish line faster. It’s useful, sure, but for dads, it’s mostly just fun.

“It’s great in lots of ways,” my dad told me. “Or should I say … Waze.”

Caroline Moss is a writer and former deputy culture editor at Business Insider. You can see her work in Cosmopolitan, The Hairpin, New York magazine and The New York Times.