I recently helped my wife purchase a new car, which by the way is a radically different experience than when I buy a car. I typically asks questions about horsepower, handling, and price, my wife on the other hand has a keen interest in the color of the instrument dials and a place to set her purse. She refuses to buy any car with blue LED dials claiming it causes her headaches. I’ve found that most of my headaches are caused by excessive bourbon consumption the night before.
It’s amazing the myriad of countless features that are available on modern cars; adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, multi-view cameras, blind spot monitoring, voice command radio, rear cross traffic alert, and my favorite, Lane Departure Warning. This features alerts you with an audible beep when you drift outside your proper driving lane. A nice safety feature that somehow we managed to live without for the last 100 years but absolutely must have now. I recall growing up as a young child when travelling with my Dad we had a different version of Lane Departure Warning. After the typical family reunion where he consumed upwards of a 12 pack of beer on his own, we would head home in the family station wagon with him at the wheel since my mother didn’t drive. All of us kids would search frantically for the seat belts and strap them on for the treacherous ride home, knowing it could be our last. This was the only time we wore seatbelts, but if there was ever a good time to wear them, this was it. As we weaved home with my Dad at the wheel (only semi-conscious), the car would drift from side to side like a wandering dog sniffing each tree by the side of the road. It was like a rollercoaster ride without rails, with oncoming cars headed right at you doing 70 miles an hour. Sheer terror at times. As our car got close to the edge of the road it would hit the gravel edge, causing the car to vibrate and bounce, like when an airplane hits turbulence. This would startle my dad a bit so he would over correct the steering and we would start to drift to the other side of the road. This was Lane Departure Warning circa 1974, and it didn’t cost a flat nickel, other than maybe taking a few years off my brothers and sister’s lives. As my older brothers obtained their driving licenses eventually they became the designated drivers, which made the trips home a little less nerve racking. Though, honestly they probably had a few beers too and had only been driving a few months, but they were alert and their eyes were open the whole way home which was refreshing.
This Lane Departure Warning feature got me to thinking, in today’s modern world why don’t we have some type of Life Departure Warning feature that beeps when you are about to make a horrible life decision. Let’s say, like when you are voting for the next President of the United States, maybe you shouldn’t vote for the candidate with no experience and the mentality of a 6th grade bully. Or when that guy with tattoos who smokes Lucky Strikes asks you out on a date. Wouldn’t it be nice if inside your head there was a little audible beep, followed by a stern voice that sounded a bit like your Mother that said something like, “Caution, you are about to make a horribly bad decision, please reconsider.” Of course, when you are 18 you would ignore the voice, or inactive the system, but maybe by the time you were 25 after a few regrettable incidents, like that time you ended up naked at Walmart shopping for Twinkies, you might start paying a little more attention to the Life Departure Warning alerts. My High School best friend, Jeff, would have benefitted greatly from a Life Departure Warning system. Maybe he would have thought twice before mooning the crowd at White Castles with a State Trooper standing 20 feet away. Or maybe he wouldn’t have drank a whole bottle of Tabasco sauce on a five dollar bet. Though at the time, he was around 18 so he would have likely ignored the audible warning. I would pay good money to have the Life Departure Warning System installed in my children. It’s a little late for the piercings, tattoos and colorful hairstyles, but maybe it could prevent other irreversible decisions.
The new cars also featured such things as “Nappa” leather. I don’t know exactly what Nappa leather is, I grew up in the country and don’t ever recall seeing a mammal called a “Nappa” and I’ve never heard of Nappa cows. I think Nappa is a newly invented adjective that means “expensive.” So this Christmas, make sure you buy your better half a Nappa watch or a Nappa fitbit, and take them out to dinner at a fine Nappa restaurant before going to see the Nappa musical. I myself would just prefer to take long naps over the holidays. Naps of course don’t cost a dime, so they are the antithesis of Nappa. So in protest of our growing consumerism I plan to take a long, free, anti-Nappa nap.
Another puzzling new leather feature on select hippy cars (Subaru) is “Vegan” leather. I am once again perplexed by the term Vegan leather. Vegan is defined as “a person who does not eat or use animal products” whereas leather is defined as “a material made from the skin of an animal by tanning or a similar process.” Combining those words does not make literal sense. I then realized that this was a marketing ploy to put a positive description on what we used to call vinyl or pleather, and is now often referred to as “Leatherette.” It’s like when your best friend describes your future blind date as having a great personality. So I guess the advertising execs think that calling it Vegan leather will appeal to those that have chosen a healthy lifestyle, but also like to overpay for their seat coverings. Maybe they could use the hip marketing adjective currently in vogue, “Artisan”, and just call the seat coverings Artisan leather. The Artisan leather could protect their seats when they are eating their artisan burgers made at McDonalds.
I was also amazed at a new feature, air-cooled seats. Heated seats have been around a while and I admit I like that feature. Nothing starts a morning off worse than sitting your bottom on an ice cold seat, so when heated seats came along they had me at hello. But cooled seats? I admit that hot seats in the summer can cause a brief sting of pain, but is this the new feature we won’t be able to live without in five years? I did try this out when we were test driving cars, and it was an odd feeling to have cold air blowing up your backside when driving. I suspect it felt much the same as when my friend Jeff was mooning his friends outside that Whitecastle in January, 1985.
The last interesting feature that caught my attention was the voice activated commands. You can now tell your car to change radio stations, navigate, or change the settings of your climate control system. So, if you are driving along and get a sudden hot flash (like my wife does), you can tell your car, “lower temperate to 62 degrees.” Or if your favorite radio or XM station mistakenly plays a Britanny Spears song, you can tell it, “WTF, please change station to anything else.” My friend Jeff and I would have really loved the voice navigation feature 30 years ago, our two most common commands would have been “find bar” and “find bail bondsman.”
Eventually, after test driving 36 different vehicles and eliminating all that had blue dials, and then test driving the 32 remaining ones again, and eliminating all that didn’t have Nappa leather or Lane Departure Warning, and then test driving the remaining 11 again, my wife made a choice. I then negotiated a reasonable deal for a car that cost almost as much as my first house. At the precise moment of signing the deal I could have sworn I heard an audible beep in my head and a voice in the background that sounded like my mother saying, “Caution, you are about to make a horribly bad decision, please reconsider.”
P.S. With every blog post I will also post a Youtube link to a song related to the post. This month’s edition is WoW by Beck. Not only is it a cool song and video, the song was playing regularly in car commercials when I was helping my wife shop for a car.