Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The new car

Where's the key?

Two days after Christmas, my car's transmission gave out. After more than sixteen years of dependable service, the vehicle had reached the end of the road. Of course, first I had to get off that road. Since it was an interstate, several helpful fellow drivers seemed to think it was useful to honk their horns and flash their headlights at me. I suppose that was to inform me that my car was in difficulty. Frankly, I thought the fact that I was poking along with my flashers going should have provided a clue that I was aware of the situation, but I guess it was nice of them to be so considerate.

Anyway, once I made my herky-jerky way to the next exit, I managed to creep along the frontage road to a nearby shop. (Since I have a talent for mitigated bad luck, the nearest shop was the one that normally did the maintenance on my car anyway.) The boy who checked me in jotted down the car's mileage and grinned at me: “You're the winner by a mile, sir. Biggest number today.” Yes, an odometer sporting well over 300,000 miles will do that for you. Of course, at that point I was not yet certain that I had finished accumulating miles on that particular car. But I did have a sneaking suspicion. When the service agent told me how much it would cost to replace the transmission, my fears were confirmed and I caught a ride to a nearby dealership. (Therein lies another story; something for later.)

Thus I began the new year in a new car. New to me, anyway. I'm now tooling about in a 2007 hybrid and gradually learning to deal with the 21st century. First of all, I no longer have a key. This freaks me out. I realize that most readers will not be surprised by this, but most people don't cling to a car for sixteen years. I had become completely adapted to that old car. Knobs and switches were all reached reflexively, no looking required. All quirks were completely internalized. Now I have to run a mental check-list before driving off, referring to the owner's manual to save me from pawing randomly at the console while trying to drive.

It's driving me crazy. (Ha, ha; “driving.”)

Good thing school is out. I'm at leisure to poke about town and learn my car's quirks. I've made one trip of significant length (down to Turlock to catch my editor while he was visiting family). That went fine, if a bit white-knuckled. Since the new car is a hybrid, I've learned not to jump when it “stalls” at stop signs. Nope. It's just shifting to electric mode.

I have a little list of things I wish I could fix, now that I'm getting used to the new car. For one thing, why is the B-pillar so wide? I'm meticulous about looking over my left shoulder at my blind spot (good work, Mr. Russ; your driver-ed class programmed me well) before moving into the lane on that side; the new car has a pillar half again as wide as my old car. Why? (Good thing it's not wide enough to hide a nearby car. I'll get used to it.) The inside door grip is farther back; recently, however, my hand has been hitting the right place when I reach for it. I'm getting there.

But that key thing? It's not like old times. No more going to the hardware store to have them grind out an inexpensive spare for me. I have only this one electronic unit that sits in my pocket and causes my car to recognize me. Very convenient but weird. Today I returned to the dealership and ordered up a spare to keep at home. It's worth it for my peace of mind.

“I miss keys,” I said to the manager of the parts department.

“You said it!” he accurately replied. “It's something that wasn't broken, wasn't it?”

Nope. Not at all. But they “fixed” it anyway. And these new-fangled electronic lock controls? They don't even have a button to keep the darned kids off my lawn!

7 comments:

Disturbingly Openminded said...

My (growing) list of unwanted "improvements" includes most changes made to Excel spreadsheets over the last decade.

It is a fascinating concept.

evlunclbud said...

I'm still mourning the loss of vent windows, and I haven't had a vehicle with those since 1995.

Steve Watson said...

We have a Prius and a Rav 4. Despite both being Toyotas, I have to shift mental gears (see what I did there?) when I change which one I drive -- pretty much none of the basic controls work the same way.

For example, while the Rav 4 has a key (albeit one with electronics in the grip) the Prius has this rectangular thing that goes in a socket in the dash. And that weird not-quite-a-gear-shift knob on the Prius dashboard?

Gene O'Pedia said...

I do love lots of the modern inventions in cars. Cruise control is one of my favorites, although it's not at all modern (and I know the blogmeister here doesn't even like that one!).

The keyless thing I've never had to deal with, but I can see how it could be a real advantage. Suppose you're leaving a bar at 2:00 AM and you've had a few too many (like six or eight too many). With your old car, you'd probably have to struggle just to get the key into the ignition, possibly scratching the area around the lock or even damaging the key. Now, you just flop into the driver seat and, even if your eyes are barely open, the car wakes up and says "Okay, let's go!"

Holms said...

"Suppose you're leaving a bar at 2:00 AM and you've had a few too many (like six or eight too many). With your old car, you'd probably have to struggle just to get the key into the ignition, possibly scratching the area around the lock or even damaging the key. Now, you just flop into the driver seat and, even if your eyes are barely open, the car wakes up and says "Okay, let's go!""

Gene O'Pedia, one could make the case that that is a dubious advantage, as it comes with the down side of aiding the nearly-paralytic in getting behind the wheel to prowl the roads.

Zeno said...

You're missing a couple of important things, Holms, one obvious and one less obvious:

1. Gene is kidding.

2. Gene knows I never drink.

Randee Colton said...

Sorry to hear about your old car, but with a mileage like that, it did seem heading for a breakdown anytime soon! It probably wouldn't make sense as well for a simple transmission replacement. I hope you're having a fine time with your new car.

Randee Colton @ CapitolHillExxon.com