Every superhero has an avowed archrival, polar-opposite but equal to our costumed protagonist. Batman has his Joker. The inimitable Lex Luthor is forever locked in battle with the Man of Steel. And, lest we forget, our friendly neighborhood Spiderman, hands-to-throat with whomever Sony thinks will put butts into a movie theater. You get the picture: Yin/Yang, black/white, peace/pathos, elephant/donkey.
Keeping that association in mind, I have a declaration of sorts to make. No, I won’t be transferring my underwear to the outside of my pants, or boldly initiate the practice of dropping coins into overdue parking meters. But I have reached one superhero benchmark. After some sixty odd years, I have earned my own ‘nemesis.’
Since the range of my superpowers mundanely fall within the realm of guessing the who-done-it on “Castle” and “Elementary” and cracking eggs with one hand, my self-branded adversary can hardly be considered omnipotent. However, it is without any doubt in my mind, my equal, as well as a royal pain in the ass.
You see my nemesis is … my wife’s car.
It’s the new breed of transport — a crossover by definition — one of those Frankensteinian mash-ups of SUV and sedan, providing all the functionality of a minivan without — and here’s where the genius lies — actually having to use the sales-killing term “minivan.”
Don’t for a second be taken in by the attractive facade. The graceful lines, the unusual root beer colored paint, together with the ultra-plush interior are all designed to wrap one in a sense of comfort and security. Inside, every inch is lined with an estimated 2,400 airbags set to smother you in a millisecond in the off chance of striking an overweight pigeon or small planetoid.
“It doesn’t have a key slot for the ignition,” the car salesman beams.
“What do you mean it doesn’t have a key slot for the ignition?” I deftly counter.
Sure enough, it’s one of the new keyless manifestations. The car merely has to ‘sense’ you have a key; you don’t actually have to use the damn thing. Apparently, you carry your keys around like a talisman.
At this point, you’re probably thinking this is just the rant of some retired old fart, hammering away on a typewriter and listening to “The Music of Your Life” on AM radio. Ignoring your amazing deductive powers for the moment, let me tell you that I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, or in this case, an organic produce crossover. Before my wife and I made the mad dash up to the snowy Great Northwest, my daily drive was a Honda S2000, a jewel-like machine that proudly put the “sport” back into sports car. Other than phenomenal handling and near sport bike acceleration, it reintroduced the push-button start to modern cars. You turned the key and pushed the button to start. Yeah, it was kind of cool. Unfortunately, with our new acquisition, they had advanced the technology from bravo to bothersome.
Case in point. We go to run a few errands with the new wheels. I drop my wife off at the grocery store. (No, I usually do all the g-shoppin’). Yes, the car buzzed and chirped as she walked away, but that’s nothing new. I head across town for some additional items, planning to rendezvous back in just a few. With purchase in hand I return to the parked car and realize my fatal mistake. She has the one key safely tucked into her purse some three miles away. Clueless, and now keyless, I’m not going anywhere soon except to employ the rest of the afternoon coordinating the happy reunion between wife, car, and key. Some talisman.
From there, it has only gotten progressively worse. The damn thing is always barking at me for one thing or another. Amidst one particular symphony of bells and whistles, I suddenly realized it’s just screwing with me. Plain and simple, it prefers my wife, which is just fine by me.
My beef with our present automobile is the sheer unadulterated overload of technology they’ve slathered on. A note to my I.T. friends: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And don’t try to hang this on government overregulation and the like; Obama didn’t mandate the plethora of electric gizmos under your butt that adjust, cool, heat, vibrate, and whisk away all your discomforts and odors. Remember when a bucket seat was just a place to plant your bucket?
Truth be told, if you stripped away the layer of computer doodads, you would find the same basic ride that your grandparents drove. Yes, beneath that silly plastic shroud that now greets you when you lift the hood, you’ll find the same tried and true technology that has powered the car for the last hundred years, albeit, a great deal cleaner, a degree more efficient, but still recognizable from its humble beginnings.
My problem? What was originally designed to aid the driver has now become a major impediment. To hell with dangers of texting behind the wheel, just try and find the volume control on the modern dashboard. This impenetrable wall of hi-tech upgrades has essentially downgraded the act of driving to merely a secondary function. The only comfort I want is the simple joy I once felt in a car. Give me back the bone rattling ride of my youth, or the unadorned power of a motorcycle. But for now I’ll settle for one simple solution — an off button.