Damned technology

Author: admin

We bought a new car last week. It’s ours now. And I’m not totally happy about either the vehicle or the buying experience.

Oh, it’s a nice one. I suppose it could be called an “old man’s car.” Quite comfortable. Good looking. Very good gas mileage for one that large. And filled with most of the technological “advances” available on cars today. “Advances.” HAH! Therein lies my angst.

The version of the owners manual that came with our new “Champagne Frost Pearl” family member is about 200 pages long. But – if you really need information for all the “how to’s” to learn to operate all the gadgets, you have to go online. There, you’ll find the REAL owner’s manual and it’s about 600 pages! 600! Which means, if I want to learn how to do something, I’ve got to take a laptop out to the garage so I can read the detailed steps for the electronics as I try learn the actions required to operate everything. Whoopee!!!

The basic fact here is I will never – never – learn how to operate or benefit from all the technological “advances” purchased. Barb probably will because she’s a teacher-of-teachers who just has to master every new challenge.

Navigation is one. A bodyless voice spouting directions out of the dashboard is not something I need. Much less want. All I want to do when driving is get from point “A” to point “B” and, often, back to point “A.” Been doing that pretty successfully for four score years. Besides, the damned thing can be wrong.

When we lived in Roseburg a few years back, I’d try to give people some direction if they were coming to the house for the first time. Most often, they’d tell me to forget it because they’d use their GPS or “nav” system. Then, about half an hour after they were supposed to be there, they’d call, asking where the hell we lived because our address did not appear on any “nav” system. Take that, Google!

One of the problems buying cars these days is that nearly all of them have created “packages” of options. Usually three or four. So, if you want a particular feature, you have to buy the entire “package” because they won’t create one that doesn’t fit their marketing scheme. There were some features we didn’t want but had to buy to get the ones we did want. So, we’re burdened with expensive toys like disembodied voices and TV cameras in mirrors and the trunk, heated seats and “auto-dimming” headlights.

I’m amazed at how many changes there’ve been since we bought our last new vehicle just two years ago. For example, I tried for three hours – on-line and through the owner’s manual – to find the maintenance schedule for oil changes, tire rotation and the like. Finally called the dealer who told me there are NO scheduled maintenance schedules. Said he, “Your car will ‘tell’ you what it needs and when it needs it.”

Also, there’s no key. You have to carry around a fob about half the size of a cigarette pack. Barb has one. I have one. And the car knows the difference! Push a button within 30 feet of the door and it unlocks. Get in, close the door, step on the brake and push a red button on the dash. The seat and pedals move to fit each of us. I’m certain that fob will work fine until we’re 60 miles from nowhere and the battery in that little discriminating nuisance wears out. Then what?

The car business is rolling again these days. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 Retail Trade Survey shows increased sales for the fifth year in a row for dealers. Those selling just new models totaled $785 billion. Throw in those who sell just auto parts and the dollars top a trillion. Trillion with a “T!” That’s pretty good evidence the need for an auto bailout a few years back kept the nation’s economy from plunging even more. Wonder what the sales dollars would be if you threw in all the used car dealers that seem to have flourished in a whole different market?

Reliability of new cars is vastly improved. Ours is one of the more popular brands and has been on the Consumer Reports list of the top 10 sellers for 30 years. It ranks third on a separate list of new cars needing the fewest repairs. And second on still another publication for brands kept the longest by satisfied owners. Which means we’ll probably trade it in two or three years down the road. All that research gone to waste.

In the meantime, Barb and our new acquisition will likely become close friends and she’ll “benefit” from knowing how to deal with all the latest in gadgetry. She’s already discovered features I didn’t know we had. And I fully expect her to develop a relationship with than damned voice.

As for me, I’ve figured out wipers (auto), lights (auto), radio, windows, heater and air conditioning. We live at point “A” and, even with the limited knowledge of all other internal workings, I can likely still get to points “B,” “C, “ and even “G” without that damned voice.

As for that battery fob that give access to all the wonders of our newest acquisition rather than a standard key, I’ll push away happily on the buttons until it stops working 65 miles East of Burns on a 110-degree day. Or a minus 10-degrees some January. Then, I will shout words of condemnation and damnation into the wind, aimed at the design team that came up with that stupid idea. Likely on a long-forgotten bar napkin.

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