So it’s summertime here in the northern hemisphere. That means the temperatures regularly climb up past 90 degrees, the humidity soars, and the news covers a raft of stories about people who leave their pets or their kids locked inside their vehicle and only discover the error of their ways when they return to find Spot, Mittens, Bobby, or Suzy broiled much later in the day.
According to the inevitable articles on the topic, boohooing and pleading sympathy for the guilty, “Experts say” it can happen to anyone. I suppose it could, in theory. Monkeys could also fly out of everyone’s collective asses. Or we could all get hit in the face by simultaneous meteorites. Anything is possible.
Speaking as a guy who put an automatic starter on his truck because he wasn’t comfortable leaving his dogs in the vehicle long enough to get in and out of various gas station bathrooms along the 800 mile route between Maryland and west Tennessee, any kind of excuse about forgetting the living creature or creatures in your back seat rings just a little bit hollow.
Look, I know everyone is busy. Everyone is tired. Everyone can have a scattered moment, but for fuck’s sake, people, at least try to pull yourselves together. It’s a living thing you’ve at least theoretically decided to take responsibility for, not last night’s leftovers that you inadvertently left on the back seat when you got home from Olive Garden.
As always, I’m left wondering what the hell is wrong with people. Unfortunately I probably know the answer to that. It starts with an S and ends with “tupid.”
I read an article today that prognosticated the death of personally owned vehicles and the internal combustion engine within the next 20 years. It made many fine points projecting how much safer, more convenient, less expensive, and environmentally conscience eliminating the traditional family car would be. We could all hail them like an Uber, let them drive us to our destination while sleeping or fidgeting with our spinner, and paying a “nominal tax” for the maintenance and upkeep of this new and exciting public service.
It’s an interesting concept, to be sure. Then, of course I look at how well we’ve managed to maintain the current generation of public infrastructure and wonder what madman would willingly give up his clean and well maintained personal vehicle in perpetuity for the joys of the sights, smells, and sounds of public transportation in automobile-sized formats? I’m thinking of the guys I’ve seen taking a leak on the DC Metro and the noxious mix of whatever it is that makes taxi floors so disgustingly odoriferous. Add in the part that one of these marvelous transportation pods might not be available when and where you need one, and it sounds like a real winner of a plan to me.
Look, maybe it’s the kind of thing that would make some flavor sense for someone living in a dense urban environment or those consciously deciding to forgo privately owning a vehicle – a group that already seems largely served by things like trains, buses, taxis, and ride sharing schemes. For those of us who made the conscious decision to live in a rural part of the country, I have no idea how something like this makes sense. The density of pods needed just to get people in my rural county to and from work would seem to be prohibitive at first blush. Then add in the times you need to have something like a pickup truck to haul trash, or furniture, or firewood, or just to make a trip to the garden center and the plan frays even further around the edges. Are there going to be special freight pods that come with even less unit density than the normal passenger pods and how much inconvenience are people as a group going to tolerate to make this concept work?
It’s an interesting notion, but for the foreseeable future is going to be a hard no from me. I like knowing I have a machine only a few feet away that I can climb into and, with a reasonable amount of maintenance and upkeep, transport myself anywhere on the continent at the time and route of my own choosing. I have no intention of giving that up that level of freedom and convenience to feed someone’s nightmare hellscape dream of a “future without cars.”
Honestly it had been so long since I’d gotten rid of my old Wrangler that I’d forgotten about the propensity of other Jeep drivers to wave to one another in passing. I know motorcyclists follow a similar protocol when passing each other and maybe there are other vehicle brands that do the same. I certainly never experienced it in my wide range of other vehicles. Drivers of Cavaliers, Corsicas, Grands Prix, Mustangs, and Tundras certainly don’t engage in this behavior. If I’m honest, I should be calling it the “Wrangler Wave,” since the Cherokee, Renegade, et al, don’t participate… but let’s be honest, when someone says Jeep it’s the round-eyed icon from the days of the world at war that everyone’s mind conjures up.
While being reminded of the “Jeep Wave,” I’ve also noticed a few trends in the last few weeks. Your most consistent group of wavers are the drivers of “old fashioned” two door Jeeps. It’s even more likely if they’re lifted or kitted out for the trail. The Unlimited 4-door drivers seem less likely to lift their fingers from the wheel. I have no idea if that’s circumstantial or if it has something to do with the type of people who buy hard riding, wind-noise and leak prone, impractical 2-door vehicles versus those who want the same experience but in the more suburban, practical 4-door variety. There are definitely “two-door people” and “four-dour people,” but we can leave that discussion for another day because I’m mostly focused at the moment on “Jeep people” in general, because someone willing to put up with the ride, the noise, the leaks, and the fuel economy that hasn’t budged since 1986 are a different breed altogether.
In any case, it’s real thing that people do… and it’s a rare bit of social interaction of which I cheerfully approve and engage in.
1. Twatwaffles. Here’s a fun fact – the more condescending your tone the more I will go out of my way to make even the easiest things difficult for you to do. If you insist on speaking to me in such a manner, I’ll smile happily at your jabs and then proceed to frustrate your efforts at every available opportunity. I can out-snark you on every imaginable level. Your powers are weak and pitiful compared to the untempered brunt of my sarcasm. You, my dear, clearly have no understanding of with whom you trifle. I will take great joy at your discomfiture, you hapless twatwaffle.
2. Self-driving cars. While conceptually interesting enough, I find the practical side of the idea to be something less desirable. If there’s anything I trust less than a human being behind the wheel it’s a computer programmed by a human behind the wheel. At least, at some point, one might hope that a human driver might as a last resort be expected to fall back on their instinct for self-preservation. I don’t have any such fleeting hope for a truly autonomous vehicle. It will do precisely what its programming tells it to do right up until it hits a buggy line of code and then does something completely different. If the computer on my desk at work is any indication, by the time we clog up our car’s computer with sufficient software to protect it from hackers, advertising bloatware, and the actual programming needed to perform mechanical and navigational operations, well, I expect to be about 17 minutes into my commute before the damned thing starts throwing off errors and just gives up and shuts itself off. I’m sure there is an enormous market for these fantastical autonomous cars, but I think I’d like to keep the 20th century simplicity of a steering wheel, a throttle, a brake, and a gear stick (clutch optional).
3. Falling out of the sky. I’m not sure if there are actually more planes falling out of the sky now than there were in the past or if we just hear more about them now than we use to. I’m sure there’s some handy website that keeps track of that information that’s only a Google search away, but really the actual numbers don’t matter as much as perception. It just seems like these contraptions are hurtling back towards earth like giant man-carrying lawn darts way more often than they should. This isn’t likely to stop me from boarding my next flight, but I’d be lying if I said a certainly unnerving series of “what if” thoughts won’t spend the entirety of that flight lurking around in the dark recesses of my mind.
I grew up in a generation that still played with toys rather than electronics. For a large part of my childhood, my toys of choice were cars. Matchbox, Hotwheels, Micro Machines, you name a brand of toy car in the early to mid-1980s and I probably had it. Come to think of it, I probably still have most of them packed away somewhere. While matchbox cars made great toys, what they don’t make is great transportation for a full grown human man.
How do I know this to be a universal truism? Well, for the last two mornings, I’ve jammed my 6’2”, 300# frame into a Hyundai Elantra. Since I’m use to driving the automotive equivalent of an aircraft carrier, I feels a little disingenuous to proclaim my powder blue rental the worst car in all of human history. I’m sure for those who are more slight of build and a foot shorter they’re probably just fine. Sadly, all I see is what it’s lacking; minor things like power, and handling, and storage, and a driver’s seat that doesn’t feel like sheet steel. It does, however, have satellite radio, came iPhone ready, and doesn’t swallow a quarter tank of gasoline in a day’s commute, so I’ll give credit where it’s due.
But even with those good points, it’s basically a matchbox car… and I can’t wait to get out of it. Or maybe I just can’t wait to get my Tundra back in the driveway where it belongs. I can already feel the neighborhood judging me because of the adult go-cart sitting out front and I’d like to get this dark chapter behind me as quickly as possible.
Sometimes you look back at a day and feel like you’ve moved the world. On other days you spend most of your waking hours talking to insurance companies, tow services, body shops, and car rental outfits. Anyone want to take a swing at guessing which kind of day I’ve had today? Considering what a massive pain in the ass it could have been, it wasn’t awful. Still, though, not exactly the picture perfect way to spend your President’s Day holiday. But hey, on the up side, at least I get to wake up before the sun comes up tomorrow and go to work. Sigh. Is it Friday yet? I want a redo on this entire weekend.
I took four hours off tomorrow afternoon. Normally that’s good enough reason for celebration, but in this case it’s time dedicated to hanging out with the fine men and women of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Come on… The filling out forms. The taking bad pictures. The standing in line. The standing in another line. The filling out more forms. And finally forking over a fistful of cash. That sounds like some real kicks on a Friday afternoon, right? If this goes as smoothly as everything else involved with this move, it should be finished with everything sometime next Tuesday. With the stack of paperwork I’m taking with me, I think I have all the bases covered… Which practically guarantees things will go horribly wrong in a new and interesting variety of ways.