You know, cars that automatically turn on headlights when it gets dark or windshield wipers when it starts to rain—like you’re too stupid to do it yourself. Ones that enable all your seat settings, mirror settings, and last radio station you listened to. How presumptuous can those little twits be?
Case in point: My husband wanted to borrow my 2012 Nissan Xterra for his annual ski trip to Lake Tahoe. He anticipated snowstorms and wanted my 4X4 SUV should conditions get tough. It made good sense since his travels involved passing through parts of the California Sierra Mountain Range, which recently got record amounts of snow.
In exchange, he loaned me his late-model Hyundai Genesis. Smooth, sleek and luxurious, the sedan would afford a quiet comfortable ride in the mild sunny Phoenix weather. I’d seen the Genesis commercials. The car beat out the options my Spartic SUV had: 4 wheels, some seats and power windows. It had no aux cords, no GPS, not even a compass. Xterra makers must’ve assumed we drivers had a brain or ought not be driving.
So, I agreed to the vehicle exchange, not realizing how unfair it was for me.
Left with his flashy smart car, I ran my weekly errands and hooked up with other family members for a lunch date. The Genesis indeed had all the bells and whistles—more than I had anticipated. When I first started the engine, it told me to straighten the steering wheel. Huh?
The seat moved back and the mirrors adjusted to my husband’s views (his being taller I couldn’t see out of any of them). The AC fan blew into my face and the radio tuned into National Public Radio, with over 100 decibels of volume! After disabling those presets, the smart screen diagrammed safe passage out of the garage. Like I couldn’t see for myself!
I hooked my purse over the gearshift lever—like I always do on my truck. But after ~15 minutes of driving, my left butt cheek started to burn. Why the left butt cheek? I put my hand under it, and shortly my hand started to burn. I pulled off the road and turned off the car. Must’ve been a short circuit in the wiring somewhere.
I called my husband and asked if he’d had any problems with left-cheek burning. After brief laughter, he told me that I must have activated the seat heater. He told me that somewhere on the gearshift console I could find a button to deactivate it. I found it alright, and it had three settings, in which I must have activated the highest one with my purse strap. Geez, who needs a seat heater—let alone three levels of it—in Phoenix?
Driving back home, I stopped at the local grocery store. I pushed the “Off” button but forgot to put the gear in “Park” first. Boy, did Mr. Smarty Car let me have it with beeps and lights. It wouldn’t let me leave the car in peace. I had to sit back down, restart the engine, engage/disengage the parking gear, and push the “Off” button before he calmed down.
So feisty! If that ever happened in my XTerra all I got was one beep and inability to pull out my ignition key. By simply reshifting to “Park,” my car let me leave and go my merry way.
I had other issues, especially with the “Lane Change” notification which not only blipped on the dashboard but also vibrated the steering wheel. My husband had given me a heads-up on that defect, so I knew to expect those notifications. Suffice it to say, when hubby finally made it back home with my SUV, I pampered it with a car wash and wax. So wonderful to have an uncomplicated and relatively brainless vehicle back!
Jane Ruby is an award-winning novelist, essayist, and short story writer. She’s also the Treasurer of the Arizona Authors Association as well as its Literary Contest Director.