iDriving Our New Computer (Pt. 2)
Last weekend as I was making sure all of our assorted clocks, watches, coffee makers, appliances and cars had all “sprung forward,” I remembered that I hadn’t yet written Part 2 of my tale of technological troubles in driving the car we bought last summer. My bad.
To recap: Both of our cars were well-over 10 years old when we finally caved to the pressures of repairs and reliability and bought a brand spankin’ new, off-the-showroom ride for my dear deserving wife. That was in July, and I’ve been alternately exasperated and amazed every time I get behind the wheel since then.
For example, even now I have to restrain myself from deliberately driving off the nearest freeway overpass in frustration when I simply try to get fresh air flowing through the vents in this miracle of transportation technology. Back when cars had more horsepower than microchips, to get fresh air you nudged a simple mechanical vent lever to a setting labeled “fresh” and the outside air flowed from the outside to inside. Easy peasy.
But the engineers who designed our new car’s “climate control system” must detest simplicity. And so, there are settings for feet only, body only, windows only, feet and windows and body and windows. My wife and I can each set our own comfort-zone so that, theoretically, I could be freezing while she rides in sauna-like heat on her side of the cabin. But neither of us can simply enjoy fresh air without rolling down the windows. Apparently, there’s no way to allow air into our car without passing through its HEPA (wha-huh?) micro-filtration system, which as near as I can tell, means I could park in front of the ruined Fukushima nuclear power plant without exposure to lethal radiation.
Before all that, however, the car must be started, which poses another challenge. That’s because our car doesn’t have a key, but rather a “fob” that communicates with mission control somewhere when either my wife or I get within a few feet of the vehicle. Supposedly, the car senses whether it’s me or my wife who’s about to attempt to drive it. With this knowledge (hello, NSA … are you watching?) it should adjust the driver’s seat and both outboard mirrors to our personal settings before we even get inside. More often than not, however, the car thinks I am my wife and that she is me. Even if we switch key fobs, the driver’s seat automatically starts sliding towards the steering wheel as I’m trying to sit down. There’s a reason I call the car, “Crusher.”
Once the seats have been readjusted to non-torture setting, there are certain, shall we say “procedures,” to follow in order to start the engine. The space shuttle had to be easier to launch than this thing. Key fob in proximity? Check. Transmission interface lever in park position? Check. Safety belt interlock properly engaged on human biomass detected in driver’s seat? Check. Begin ignition sequence. Locate launch, er, start button on the cockpit panel and … nothing. Houston, we have a problem.
Okay, check owner’s manual volume 4, chapter 148, page 10,432: “Starting Your Car’s Engine.” Why of course! My foot needs to depress the brake with precisely 23-foot-pounds of pressure while my left foot makes slow, lazy circles in a counter-clockwise motion exactly 15cm above the heat-sensitive floor mat while driver’s left hand makes clockwise circles above his/her/gender-neutral head and right hand grips the steering wheel and driver recites the combined CAFÉ fuel economy regulations for imported auto manufacturers out loud. And finally, the car starts.
I am making progress, however. After sitting in our car for much of this past Sunday with the massive owner’s manual in one hand and a yellow highlighter and sticky notes in the other, I was able to set the clock ahead one hour. So, I’ve got that going for me.
I’ll see you ’round town.