Sometimes, regardless of good intentions, things just go south. No one means for things to go south and everyone tries to make sure things do not go south, but despite our best efforts some things just wind up headed in a southerly direction. The phrase “go south” usually means something has gone wrong or is worsening. “Generally, the use of this idiom is a somewhat lighter way to talk about negative trends. It can be substituted for harsher language with words like “terrible,” “dire,” or “catastrophic.” (http://www.wisegeek.org/what-does-it-mean-if-things-go-south.htm)


On occasion, a person can be doing something completely normal and it can go south in a flash. For example, a woman in Philadelphia had her walk go south when she happened to look up to the sky and was hit smack in the face with a 5-pound catfish. “Witnesses saw a bird, possibly a hawk or eagle, flying away. The bird had apparently dropped the foot-long fish, which fell more than 50 feet.” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/09/11/catfish-falls-from-sky-newser/90224170/)


This lady survived with just some facial cuts, but a guy in England was not so lucky. For years his joy was playing the bagpipes and that's what went south and killed him – bagpipe lung. The bagpipes' “moist, dark interior apparently provided an ideal breeding ground for fungus...(doctors) tested the man's bagpipes and found a wide array of mold and yeast. Unfortunately, it was too late to save the patient.” This turned out to be the first documented case of death by bagpipe.



While things like these are two examples of random happenings going south, there are things that have a southbound future written all over them. For instance, Google has obtained a patent for a flypaper car. “The company wants to coat self-driving vehicles with a sticky substance so that if they hit a pedestrian, the person would be glued to the car instead of flying off. Google explains that an adhesive layer would be placed on the hood, front bumper and front side panels of a car.” Okay, so while you're waiting for a pedestrian to stick to your car, wouldn't other things stick to it in the meantime? Stuff like sticks, leaves, deer, your child's soccer ball? How do you wash a sticky car? Does snow slide off this surface or do you have to wait for the spring melt? No way this could go south, eh? (http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/19/technology/google-flypaper-car/)


Speaking of vehicles, the geniuses at MIT are working on self-driving boats. “Imagine a fleet of autonomous boats for the transportation of goods and people,” says Carlo Ratti, professor at MIT. Now add in this: “ Rolls-Royce is working with Finnish researchers to develop unmanned, remote-controlled transport ships.” When these two concepts merge you'll have self-driving boats that are remote controlled. Imagine these cruising Lake Cadillac on a typical summer Saturday. No way this could go south in a hurry, eh? (http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2016/09/19/get-ready-self-driving-boats-coming-too/90685394/)


With sticky cars rolling down the roads and remote controlled boats slicing through the waves, the only thing left is what is going on in the air above us. In that regard, drone registrations are soaring. “Federal aviation officials said they are contemplating the possibility of millions of unmanned aircraft crowding the nation’s skies in the not-too-distant future...more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft have been registered with the FAA. New registrations are coming in at a rate of 2,000 a day. By comparison, the FAA says there are 260,165 manned aircraft registered in the U.S.” The Consumer Technology Association adds that “U.S. drone sales are expected to top 2.4 million aircraft this year.” Millions of remote controlled drones zipping hither and yon overhead with no flight plans or organizational coordination? No way that could go south, eh? The sky will be so crowded there will be nowhere for a self-respecting eagle to drop a catfish. (http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/16/faa-contemplates-future-with-millions-of-drones-in-the-skies/)


With all this going on by land, sea and air, you might be tempted to lock your doors and hunker down at home. It turns out that you may not even be safe there. “Consumers around the world could see their home Internet speeds slow in the coming weeks due to a recent release of software that allows hackers to use Internet-connected devices to attack websites. Mirai is an easy-to-use program that allows even unskilled hackers to take over online devices...taking over DVRs, cable set-top boxes, routers and even Internet-connected cameras used by stores and businesses for surveillance.” If the heat starts going up and down in your house and your DVR plays nothing but non-stop reruns of “My Mother The Car,” you may want to stop telling that kid next door to stay off your lawn. No way this hack could go south, eh? (http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/10/03/internet-things-brian-krebs-ddos-attack-distributed-denial-of-service/91481588/)


Well, you could always hail a taxi and just get out of town, right? Even that might go south in a hurry if a new New York City law spreads across the rest of the country. “By an order of the New York City Council signed by Mayor Bill De Blasio, cabbies will no longer be required to take an English proficiency test to get behind the wheel...the ordinance exempts the 96 percent of New York taxi drivers who were born outside the U.S from needing to converse in English with their passengers.” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/08/22/taxi-immigrants-new-york-nyc-language-barrier-bengali-urdu-column/89109020/)


No way this could go south, eh? If a passenger describes a destination in English but the cabby is from (let's say) Senegal and only understands Wolof, how does that trip request get communicated? Ironic is that the business of the New York City Council is conducted in English. I wonder if that was no longer the case would NYC Council meetings go south.


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.

John Auchter
Oct 7, 2016