My car has decided that it needs to reassure me.
We’ve had the minivan for a couple of years now, and it has been a fine and worthwhile vehicle. We have taken it to at least twenty states in three different time zones so far and it has gotten us there and back in one piece and in relative comfort. We’ve put more than 40,000 miles on it, and transported entire hosts of friends and family hither and yon, and in the midwest yon can be quite a ways from hither let me tell you. And in all that time the van never felt any particular need to talk to us.
I understand that manufacturers put in those synthesized voice units mostly to warn people of impending doom, since few Americans can be bothered to read anything anymore and the mechanics of putting a long metal arm that would swing down from the roof and bitch-slap the driver and then point to a warning light are cost-prohibitive. Believe me, the engineers have tried hard to make that work, if only for their own amusement, and while someday I expect to see it as a standard feature on all new models today is not that day.
They’re safety systems, in other words, designed to let you know when things go wrong.
Recently, however, the van has decided to let us know that things are in fact going swimmingly, which is polite if somewhat mystifying.
It started a couple of weeks ago when I was backing out of our driveway – a nerve-wracking experience in the best of times, as you have to go the entire length of the house with the foundation on one side and a fence on the other, on a pathway about eight inches wider than the van. I had gotten about to the dining room windows when the van gave a soothing series of synthesized beeps and then a pre-programmed female voice announced that “The HFT is okay.”
Well, I thought, once I had calmed down. Glad to hear it.
I figured that was it, because really – how often do you need to be informed that nothing is wrong? But the van was rather insistent on this point, it turned out, and about every half minute for the next several miles the van took the opportunity to remind me that the HFT remained in its state of okayness. Further bulletins as events warrant.
Since then the van has continued to make this same announcement almost every time we get in to go somewhere. Day after day, trip after trip – “The HFT is okay.” Usually it cuts out after a couple of repetitions, but not always. Sometimes it takes a couple of miles. After a while you begin to wonder why the HFT is just okay. Why can’t it be fabulous? Stupendous? Exciting? But no, okay is what it is.
And that’s okay.
I suppose it could just be covering up something, trying to convince us – or perhaps itself – that nothing is wrong even as the whole innards of the engine is slowly melting or some similar automotive crisis unfolds just beyond our awareness. But that would be going to an awful lot of trouble when it could just ignore us the way every other vehicle I’ve ever owned has done and achieve the same result, and in point of fact there has been no evidence of any problems that we’ve been able to find. The HFT and everything else seems to be okay.
We don’t really know what the HFT is, but since we are reassured that it is okay we’re willing to let that slide for now. I suppose if the HFT were somehow not okay – if the voice one day were to tell us that the HFT is feeling a bit poorly, or was missing a piece that it needed, or was in fact about to do something particularly stupid that would leave everything in a half mile radius a smoking crater, then we might be more motivated to find out what exactly an HFT is and how it had transitioned from Okay to Not Okay.
But for now it’s kind of reassuring to know that in a world where every day the news brings us ever more graphic reminders of things that are not okay there remains something that is, in fact, okay.
It’s a very thoughtful car that way.