During some of my couch potato sessions when an automobile ad pops onto the TV screen, I wonder if others are as overwhelmed as I am with all the gizmos and gadgets on new autos. Current models scare me, with my level of fear somewhere between Armageddon and an evening at ChuckECheese’s. That’s why I don’t own one.
Occasionally I do rent a car. Slipping into my most recent rental and turning the key in the ignition once I found it, the dash lit up like the bridge of the starship Enterprise. Remember when the turn signal lever actually controlled the turn signal? By the time I finished hitting all the wrong switches and accessory buttons and got the car moving, I discovered I’d nearly removed my gallbladder.
If you can locate the release, pop the hood of any new car. It looks like someone took a bunch of metal, plastic, hoses and wires, stuck them in one of those scrap yard crushers that turns things into 3-foot cubes, and dropped it in the engine compartment. I assume sparkplugs are in there somewhere, although I haven’t seen any in years.
I used to carry an emergency tool kit with a few items to make simple repairs in case of a breakdown on the road: a screwdriver, a hammer, a pair of pliers (or just one plier if I couldn’t find a pair), an extra fan belt, a hamster, a copy of the Iliad and Cool Whip. Usually I could get my car up and running to the nearest repair shop or junkyard, whichever came first. Not so anymore even for my non-current Toyota.
Speaking of repairs, here are some helpful tips for two types of current autos you may own or have an interest in owning other than internal combustion models:
Electric and hybrid cars – While inserting the key into the ignition, if sparks issue from any more than two of your body openings, there is most likely a short somewhere in the system. Provided you‘re still conscious, call OnStar then quickly update your will.
Diesel cars – They’re not as popular as they were a few years ago, but they’re still on the road. You can spot one by the black smoke belching from the tail pipe, the slow pick up speed and the obnoxious odor. If you own one for some reason, immobilize the steering wheel, put a brick on the accelerator and run it off a cliff.
My first car was the standard internal combustion type, a 1929 Nash that I purchased when I was thirteen with paper route money. When I was finally old enough to drive all I had to do was jump in, flip the switch for the ignition—no key needed—step on the starter and I was off. If the battery was dead, no problem; I’d pull the crank from under the seat, step to the front, insert the crank in a hole under the radiator and start it up, making sure I hadn’t left it in gear thereby avoiding a nasty hit-and-run death or worse.
I didn’t need air conditioning. On warm days I would crank the windshield open to get a breeze. This was fine until one night while cruising along about 40, I was hit in the forehead by a June bug, narrowly avoiding a concussion. My Nash even had cruise control. There was a lever in the middle of the steering wheel that controlled the gas pedal. I could use it to accelerate to a desired speed and leave it in that position. This was handy when I had to remove the bugs plastered on my face.
There are some features on new cars that interest me: one is the ability to understand voice commands, provided you don’t speak Klingon. On the network news, I saw a car that can drive by itself. These are features that could actually be helpful to me because I could record some non-Klingon directions and commands on my MP3, then plug it in to the stereo. The car would drive itself to visit my in-laws while I sat in my La-Z-Boy and watched football.
Now there’s even a little gizmo that you plug into your dash that tells you how you’re driving. This I surely don’t need.
I have a wife to do that.