New Ride Has Fancy Gadgets

Print this entry

I bought a new vehicle several weeks ago, here in Mount Pleasant, another small SUV similar to the Ford Escape hybrid I have driven for nearly eight years. It has 190,000 miles on it but still looks and runs like a new vehicle. I loved that scamp, but it was time to hand it down to our daughter Abbie, who passed her driving test with flying colors and is now legally running around town. It is passing strange to see her head out of the driveway on her way to school in my car. The first time it happened, I thought someone was stealing it but then remembered she had her license.

I changed make and model but bought another four-cylinder, gray in color. I likely will drive this one until I retire in eight years or so. I view cars as just a way to get around, so new-car fever is not something I catch very often. Camera equipment and computers are a different story, but they are not nearly as large an investment.

This new SUV has a lot of bells and whistles I’m still trying to figure out. The only item I had added was seat heaters. The Escape was my first vehicle to have this luxury. Seat heaters are wonderful on cold mornings, especially if you are just going a short distance, not long enough for the heater to kick in.

Several years ago, I struck up a friendship with a fascinating old man named Monk Willis, who was 92 when we met. Monk was brilliant, irascible and a terrific storyteller. He also was a chain smoker (he finally quit at 93) and would cajole me into taking him to the tobacco shop to buy a couple cartons of cheap (relatively speaking) cigarettes. As a reformed smoker and zealot, I would complain the whole way to the smoke shop that I was contributing to the delinquency of a senior citizen.

One wintry, wet day I turned on his seat heater before he got in the car, but I forgot to tell him I had done so. After a few minutes he turned to me in horror and exclaimed, “I believe my (crude word for posterior) is on fire!”

Monk passed away nearly four years ago. I miss that old man.

Back to the new vehicle. It has a fancy screen that contains a built-in GPS, blue-tooth cell service so I can talk hands-free, a backup camera and satellite radio. The backup camera comes on, naturally, when the vehicle is in reverse and I can look at the screen to see what I’m potentially going to hit. Trouble is, I really don’t trust the camera’s accuracy, and it’s hard to see sometimes. My old car just started beeping when I was several feet way from backing into something. That saved many a fender bender, because I am a lousy backer-upper —excellent at parallel parking and maneuvering a trailer into a space, but not so great at backing up.

This new car, according to the owner’s manual, doesn’t start beeping until it is 1.5 feet from hitting an object. That is way too late. I need more warning than that. The owner’s manual also says the artificial lanes displayed by the camera are not necessarily accurate either. So apparently the camera is only useful for not running over a bicycle left in the driveway or some such.

The new car, which is much quieter and smoother than the Escape, also has a voice-activated system. Much like Siri on my iPhone, the gremlin inside the screen rarely understands what I am trying to say. I end up shouting at the screen: “Phone Kasey!” (my oldest daughter.) To someone passing me it likely appears as if there is a deranged person behind the wheel yelling at his car. And technically, there is.

Abbie asked if I planned to name my car. She has christened the Escape “Lilly,” festooned it with a few stickers and a blinged-out license plate holder with her monogram. I told her guys didn’t name their vehicles; that is a girl thing. I did put my “Texas Exes Life Member” license plate holder on the back, along with a Red Sox decal I have been saving since I bought it at Fenway last summer. But some jerk swiped it while I was parked across from the jail a few weeks ago. I have since acquired another that will be applied from the inside to prevent future banditry.

My nameless vehicle and I are getting used to each other, and I’m very happy with it. It is surreal to think that, barring a wreck, this is likely the last vehicle I’ll buy during my working life.

As long as the seat heater holds out, that is.

Print this entry

Leave a reply

Fields marked with * are required