Friday, December 30, 2011

Car Trouble

In a society that thrives on "out with the old, in with the new", often the older ones among us get left behind in the dust of technology as it roars past them at the speed of light. It's true: technology is changing at an exponentially rapid pace. The technology available today was merely a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye ten years ago. Never mind that, the "cutting edge" tablet computer you got for Christmas will be obsolete in a matter of weeks when version 3.0 comes out.

I feel sorry for the older generations. Not in a patronizing, "I'm better than you" kind of way, but in a "come over for a cup of tea and let's commiserate" kind of way. Because truthfully, I'm just like them.
While I know what "cookies" are (not the tasty kind), and can whip out some html code quicker than Billy the Kid could raise his Winchester 73' rifle (yep, Googled that), I am lost when it comes to automotive technology.

Now before you get all sexist on me, it's not a "woman" thing (despite what the picture may suggest). I know the basic mechanics of a car. I know what antifreeze does, where the oil goes, and how to change a tire. I can tell you which vehicles have spark plugs and which do not and can at least fake being suitably impressed when you tell me how many cylinders your engine has.

But why on earth do all the interiors have to be so different? I've driven a few cars and from what I can tell, no two dashboards are alike. Some have floor shift, some have it behind the steering wheel, and some have it mounted front and center at eye level, in case your other vehicle is a space ship or something. Some have headlights that automatically turn on and some don't. Some have enough climate control dials to individually adjust the ambient temperature for each passenger's left earlobe and some have one dial that seems to only function between "colder than an Eskimo in underpants" and "a sunny afternoon in the Sahara".

It is so frustrating. I've had my current car for almost 5 years and we're only just now friendly acquaintances with one another. To this day, there is a button on my dash marked "AVF" whose purpose still remains a mystery. What does it do? A few things I've considered:

  • "All Vehicles Freeze"
  • "Automatic Violin Function"
  • "Awful Violent Fire"

Aside from that, we're ok, me and the car. It may have taken me six months to learn how to make the high beams stay on and another seven to figure out how to change the clock, but I've made do.

The point of all this brings me to today. This evening I needed to go to the store for a few ingredients for some Chai Tea Latte Cupcakes (don't worry, that will have its own post), but having flown here I had to borrow my mother's car.

Now for some perspective, she has a Prius. I love Mother Earth and all that, but would it be possible to make a car that saves the environment AND functions like a normal vehicle? Even from the first moment we used a Prius, we had trouble operating it. Yes, Mom and Dad, I'm referring to that embarrassing time in a parking garage in Switzerland where we couldn't figure out that the car does not actually turn "on" unless you press the power button with your foot on the brake. (Takeaway lesson from this: once again, proof that shouting at modern technology does not make it acquiesce to your demands).

She clearly struggles with this issue too. For one thing, she won't be able to reach the pedals sitting like that.

Anyway, I hopped in the car and away I went, proud of myself for getting the car out of the garage without accidentally putting it in reverse first (another common Prius issue). I was almost out of the neighborhood when I realized my headlights weren't on.

I pulled over and pressed my foot on the brake, forgetting you have to press a special "Park" button on the dash before the car stays put. Problem number one. The car is rolling and the gear shift isn't helping me.
After avoiding a minor collision with a mailbox, I searched vainly in the dark for the headlight dial. No luck. Perhaps I should find the cabin lights first. Still no luck. What does this do? Oh, I'm washing the rear windshield, how nice.
Suddenly Adele is wailing at me at the top of her lungs..."I SET FIIIIIREE TO THE RAAAAIN..." Seems I've found the steering wheel volume buttons. This only adds to my distress.
I fiddle with some more buttons and get the volume back down to a more reasonable level, but not before accidentally adjusting the bass to where poor Adele sounds like she's warbling from the inside of a Boeing 737 engine.
It is not until the GPS Navigation screen informs me in a sternly worded message that I've failed to make a Bluetooth connection that I throw my hands up in disgust and decide to fall back on the age old method of calling for help.

So yes, Mother, I did call you less than a quarter of a mile from the house. I'm sorry for shouting. But thank you for helping me locate all the necessary buttons and dials. I may or may not have driven all the way to the store with the high beams and the interior lights on, but I got there safely. And that's what is most important.

At least I don't have THAT kind of trouble.

So don't make fun of older people for getting confused by "email" and "text messaging". Everyone has something out there that gives them trouble.
Just hopefully not bears....


  1. Seriously. You are freaking hilarious. And I will likely never purchase a prius...sounds too scary.

  2. Oh. My. Word!! This is hilarious.

  3. So your mom got a prius!? Wonderful :) ... And funny! I remember wondering why she wouldn't start the car when in fact it was running but oh so silently! :) nice to read you! Bisous audrey

  4. This was a great post! Loved it!
    Now- for car trouble- you should try NOT sitting behind the wheel at all for 5 years then coming back to the US and wanting passionately to drive but having to renew your license first (and absolutely take the test, thankyouverymuch) and THEN trying to figure out where everything's been moved to in the car since the last time you checked. For crying out loud- where's the ignition?!?
    Oh you are so right! I can totally relate to this one!! heeheee

  5. ps- that chick in the first pic? She don't know cars, either, I'll just bet. She's just trying to impress. I mean- who wears a dress like that while looking under the hood????


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