Daze of My Life: Driven to Distraction
Daze of My Life
Driven to Distraction
Having now been a car owner for over 35 years, I have learned over that time what sights and sounds (unique to the car) I can ignore and what sights and sounds I can't. Dashboard warning lights, a.k.a. "idiot lights" obviously come to mind. And as irresponsible as it has probably been, I have learned to ignore them, or at least drive with their illumination until such time as I was finally ready to take responsibility for my own inaction and schedule a service-type appointment. However colorful, however large, however prominently displayed on my dashboard, I have become accustomed to, and quite frankly unaffected by, their appearance.
Unfortunately for me, that decades-long mastery of my car-driving domain is now under stress. In the new, for me anyway, 2003 German import I am now driving, there are bells and whistles and lots of creature comforts with which I'm unfamiliar. Moreover, there are features and benefits and readouts and assessments I'm sure I'm not the least bit aware of, nor information I'm likely ever to access or understand. When I turn the key, the engine starts (although I did have to replace the computerized keys when it stopped communicating with the engine). When I press on the accelerator, the car accelerates; when I press on the brake the car slows down. What else the car does, other than these basics is of no immediate concern to me - that I know of. Unless that is, the onboard computer wants me to know something that I otherwise would not know or is in my - and the car's - best interests to know, in the interest of safety, longevity, maintenance, courtesy to your fellow drivers, etc.
So far as I know (and that's not very far), there are no printouts that I'm neglecting or emails that I'm not receiving, advising me of whatever it is that the car owner should know. The only means of communication - between my car and its driver/owner (yours truly) - is exhibited on the dashboard; warning lights with words or symbols indicating something in the car needs attention. And again, sights I can handle, sights I can ignore, but what I can't ignore, what I can't abide, like "Rude behavior in a man," as said by Augustus McCray in the television movie, Lonesome Dove, is rude and annoying behavior - BY MY CAR!
And the rude and extremely annoying behavior to which I refer is the dashboard warning lights' AUDIO reminders. Apparently it's not enough that my car illuminates the indicator both in word and as a symbol (and constantly flashing it as well), this car also has to bring attention to its illumination by beeping/dinging a warning/reminder sound every 30 seconds, EVERY 30 SECONDS! Can you imagine? Do you have any idea how aggravating - and difficult to ignore - it is to hear a warning beep (no words, just a ding) every 30 seconds? It almost makes me want to actually schedule an appointment at the dealership and have the stupid problem fixed already (in this instance my rear license plate light was out).
But I'm holding out as long as I can. I'll fix it when I'm good and ready. I'm not about to fix it just because my car, an inanimate object, tells me to. I am not going to be controlled by my car. I control the car. I make the payments. I fill it with gas. If it wasn't for me, that car would be sitting in a lot somewhere doing nothing. It owes me and it should treat me with the respect I deserve. If I want any additional information about my car's needs, I'll ask it. Until that time, don't bother me, especially when I'm driving, I'm already bothered enough.
Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.