My Car Treats Me Like I’m an Idiot

Normally, owning a brand new car is something most folks enjoy.  And that was the case with my very first new car – a 1985 Camry.

It’s been a different story for my second new car, a 2007 Toyota Corolla I bought in November 2006.  That was a purely “business” decision.

After 21 years of faithful service, my beloved Camry was showing its age.  Although it only had about 135,000 miles, the paint was starting to fade in spots.  Most of the engine was original equipment except for an alternator and brake cylinder.

Then, my AC compressor developed a leak and AC is a must in Florida.  A new compressor would be $1,000.  Considering that other parts may soon be failing, that I’d not be working any more in a few years, and Toyota was offering a $750 rebate on new cars, I decided to put that $1,000 for a new AC compressor towards buying a new car so it’d be paid for by retirement.  (It’ll be paid off at the end of next month.)

There was just one problem, which I knew I’d face but could not avoid.  Unlike my Camry, all new cars are “smart.”  In other words, they’ve been engineered to assume the owner is a complete idiot.  These features are masked as “for your convenience.”

Now maybe it’s my fault.  Maybe I should have alerted the Toyota dealer that both my SAT and GRE scores were right at 1200 (when 1,600 was the maximum).  That my college GPA was 3.5.  That I have a Master’s degree and that GPA was at least 3.0.  Maybe then they’d have altered the car’s computer setting from “idiot” to just “semi-idiot.”

The Corolla is always beeping to “remind” me of something.  That I’ve taken the key out of the ignition and the door is open.  That the key is in the ignition but my seat belt isn’t fastened.  That my headlights are on.  And on and on.

A couple of times, I’ve been so aggravated by the beeping I wanted to whack the car.  I don’t like being treated like an idiot!  Especially when there’s a perfectly rational reason for what I’m doing.  Such as unfastening my seat belt so I can get out of the car to check my mail.  Then, when I get back in the car, I don’t fasten the seat belt for the short drive into the garage.  But the Corolla beeps me both times.  It’s the one that’s an idiot!

Now my Camry was fairly quiet. And sometimes much smarter than my Corolla.  If I left the headlights on and took the key out of the ignition, there was no beep.  The Camry deduced that if the key is not in the ignition, then there is no need for headlights and shut them off.  Now, that is very smart! Why wasn’t the Corolla designed that way?

The most aggravating “smart” feature about the Corolla is regular reminders about changing oil.  After about 3,000 miles, a  “maintenance required” light comes on.  The only way to turn it off  is to execute a tricky maneuver involving putting the key in a certain ignition position while also pressing on the odometer button for a period of time.  I usually have to try it about three times before getting it right. (OK, so my manual dexterity is slowing in my old age!)

Now why couldn’t  Toyota just have put some sort of sensor in the oil pan screw so that it “knows” when the oil is changed?  That’d be “smart.”  Or better yet, let me worry about when to change the oil? (I keep a notebook in the car with the date and mileage of any maintenance, repair, etc.)

Reminders are one thing but automatic actions are even worse.  One “convenience” I hate about many rental cars, which fortunately is not on my Corolla, is that all doors lock shortly after the car begins moving.  I guess this is for kids?  What can’t parents be responsible for locking all doors? I don’t like a locked car.  If I’m in an accident, unconscious and all doors are locked….  Has that scenario not occurred to the design engineers? Or, how about at least a button that “turns off” automatic door locking?

Along those lines, how about a button that turns off all beeps, etc.?  In other words, all cars should have  “I’m not an idiot” override buttons.  I’m sure that wouldn’t be so difficult.

Fortunately, I expect the Corolla will be my last car.  After almost three years, the odometer hit  19,000 miles earlier last week.  At that rate, when I stop working in another three years (or less), it will have 38,000 miles.  Then, I’ll not drive it very much.  (Susie only puts about 4,000 miles a year on her car now that she’s retired.)  I’ll be in my mid-70’s before the odometer hits 100,000 miles!

Good thing too.  Because who knows how “smart” cars will have become by then?  Can you imagine the reaction if I walk into a car dealer and ask:  “Do you have any stupid cars I can look at? Perhaps an ’85 Camry in great condition?

And they call it “progress”…. It’s another sign of the “dumbing down” of society.

Now, if they just engineered cell phones the way they do cars, then Susie would not have to be the one to tell me how to work all the various options. All I can do is dial and sometimes check messages. I’m too much of an idiot for the rest….  😉


7 responses to “My Car Treats Me Like I’m an Idiot

  1. Why don’t you expect to keep driving until age 110? Isn’t that de rigeur in Florida?

    • Yes, driving at 100 in Florida is de rigeur… mortis.

      I’m trying to be responsible…lol! In college, I was.. mortified 😉 .. to see a woman who worked at the bookstore who could barely walk be helped to her car at the end of the day so she could drive home.

  2. Also de rigeur is driving a Chrsler Sebring convertible and not being able to see over the dashboard…
    This was hysterical, Steve, one of your best! I hate all those flipping beeps too, but the difference between you and me is, I need them 🙂

    • I can’t believe your Mustang is that “smart.” Wait until you buy an new car!

      > driving a Chrsler Sebring convertible and not
      > being able to see over the dashboard

      You must not have driven the new Sebring. I was given one as a rental and could see over the dashboard. And it is only 4-cylinders too.

  3. It’s a Camaro 🙂 Hmmm. Maybe I should look into Sebrings. I joke, but I can’t see over the dashboard of the Camaro as it is. I have a friend who is at least two inches shorter than me (which makes her 5′ tall) and she drives a Ford F-150 truck. She for real cannot see over the dashboard. We are driving by the Braille method.

  4. Unfortunately, I think many things these days – including our cars – are manufactured for the lowest common consumer. And the rest of us have to put up with it.

  5. ROFL, I am so with you. Smart cars are the worst!

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