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My 2004 Subaru was on its last leg. A trip to my mechanic documented faulty brake systems, suspension amok, and other mechanical failures about to erupt. Bald tires, plus other safety issues had been duly noted. I needed a new car, even though I hate buying one. Although mine was old, like a pair of comfy slippers it fit me well. One day, I decided to “just look” and stopped by Fitz Mall Subaru, one of my local auto dealers. A few hours later I walked out with a new car, and not a clue as to how to drive it.
After a lifetime of looking out the back window before backing up, I could not do what was so counter intuitive….look at a screen in front of me while I backed up. I got home and could not find the parking brake. A frantic phone call to the dealer revealed that the parking brake was a discrete oblong button on my the console between the two front seats. But, when I tried to “release” the brake, nothing happened. Another phone call and the salesman told me I had to press down on the floor brake then the button to release the parking brake. And so it went.
The sheer number of dials and buttons is over whelming–on the steering wheel, to my left underneath the steering column, on the ceiling, on the center console, and the dials in front of me also have a “settings” button. A plethora of safety beeps has me periodically talking to my car, “shut up, who are you to tell me what to do.” (We’ll leave out my use of four letter words.) The owner’s car manual runs over 200 pages long, and my dealer offers an hour one on one tutorial (my tutorial lasted two hours), to help new owners.
The in-car map system totally baffled me, as yes, I still print driving instructions, and stop at gas stations to ask directions. (“Honey, take a left, and you’ll go about five miles, passing a field of cows…turn right at the cemetary.”) But folks, I’ve got news for you. When the zombie apocalypse takes over the world, the first thing they will do is disable the cell towers. I will have my trusty written instructions and be heading for safety in the mountains while the rest of you are totally lost!
Technology has reshaped our lives in many ways, but at what cost? The thing I like most about my new car is the fact that I can download Pandora and loads of music selections…something that has nothing to do with driving. But so many buttons removes us from the act of seemingly accomplishing the task through our own efforts. A few buttons are fine, but too many makes me wonder what we might have lost. And increased technology also means more things can go wrong….and in a much more complicated way.
My dream car is an early 1950’s Ford or Chevy manual (yep, I can drive a stick shift) pick up truck. (See left photo in the montage above.) Just a smooth bench type seat, maybe some waist seat belts, windows you crank down yourself (no air conditioning, of course), and only an AM radio. A technological illiterate car, not much can go wrong with it. You’re not riding along in a smooth cocoon where air is filtered, and with a touch of a button (if you can find the right one) all driving problems will be solved.
I don’t know, buttons can be really nice, but sometimes I want to sing off key with Patsy Cline on an AM radio about loves lost, while a cool summer breeze ruffles my hair through a window I cranked down.