My Car Thinks I’m an Idiot

A few weeks ago I purchased a new-to-me used 2013 vehicle, not for vanity, but because my old car was rusting, didn’t always start and forced me to put more money into it than a disgruntled senior citizen puts pennies in the slots at a smoky casino.


So with another Michigan winter on the horizon—lord help us all—it was a proactive move that made me feel responsible—Yay! Safe, new car!—and simultaneously depressed that I had to spend such a large chunk of money on a car.

I hate cars.

Well, I don’t hate cars, but I don’t really know an RPM from REM and frankly have no interest in finding that out. But what I did find out soon enough is that my new car thinks I’m an idiot—and honestly, it’s probably right.

The first clue was when I thought the fancy new key was actually a weapon in disguise. Instead of the customary key I was used to, I was given this fancy thing that ejects with a push of the button. Along with starting my new car, I plan to use it as a silver spear of self-defense should the occasion arise.

Once I got past the actual starting of the car, there was the small matter of the NASA-like dashboard. Not only does it let me know how fast I’m going, but also tire pressure, oil levels, temperature, radio volume and the first 1,203 digits of Pi.

In addition, I can program in 36 different radio stations to my “Favorites” bar, which is handy considering I listen to about six different stations. Ever. But should I decide that I want to get into Mexican rap, there is apparently an XM station for that, my amigos.

When I put the car in reverse, a video camera takes over that console and shows me what’s behind the car. Handy if there is something directly behind my vehicle. Not so much if a juvenile mouth breather on a scooter comes dashing across from the side. However, the kicker is that while I’m backing up I am NOT allowed to change the radio station or adjust the temperature.

Very tricky, my four-wheeled friend.

Speaking of the temperature, there are just too many options. If I’m cold, I want to be warm, but I don’t know if the little arrows pointing at the person on the screen will blast up through the front vents or defrost my front windows and possibly a Thanksgiving turkey.

But the biggest surprise was when I was driving along pushing buttons and had a temporary moment of panic. While I rarely question my bladder control, the seat of my pants got so warm that I wondered if I had reached a stage of not only vehicular incompetence, but also incontinence.

I was relieved—no pun intended—to find it was just heated seats. Another example of why I’m why I can’t have nice things.

On the upside, it only takes me about 10 minutes to find my car in a parking lot now instead of still looking for the old one, and I expect it will only take 25 more trips to the gas station to remember that the gas tank is on the opposite side it was on my old Blazer.

But at least I have the On Star person to talk to for free for the next two months before my trial runs out, as there are times that I just need to vent. They often seem a bit confused that I’m not actually directionally lost, just wandering a bit emotionally, but I think it’s a nice break for them, too.

Start your engines.

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34 responses to “My Car Thinks I’m an Idiot

  1. very happy to see you have a nice new reliable automobile… (and also that you have power again? I think that is true, yes?)

    my dependable Tillie is about to have her 12th birthday, but with only 71,000 original miles, I think we will be a fearless duo for many years to come.

    my Dad’s car, however, that is sitting on my curb much to my neighbors dismay (one neighbor expressed interest in buying it, but Jason thinks that is just to get it out of the street!), has all those crazy features (I love the heated seats, I do not love the backup camera!) that are so fun to get used to. no Pi calculations, however… that would be dope.

    I learned to sing Arabic just by listening to the music. I have no idea what I am saying, but still – you can browse those stations and learn a new language, even if you have to sing it.

    • Ha! I haven’t taken to foreign language ballads yet as I generally stick to sports radio. And yes, I have power again. If I didn’t, I might briefly consider moving into the car if only to sleep on the (heated) seats.

  2. New shoes always feel odd at first – cars, too? Zoom on.

  3. That is too funny. I recently had my economy car in for service, and was given a 2013 Lincoln MKZ as a loaner (a common dealer trick in hopes you’ll like the loaner so much you’ll rush right in to buy one like it). Anyway, it was disconcerting enough that the loaner did not actually need a key in the ignition to start – the key fob just needed to be in the car. I was terrified I’d lose that darn key fob. But worse was the fact that the loaner was FULLY PUSH-BUTTON – there was no gear shift! I kept forgetting that I had to push the “drive”, “reverse” and “park” buttons on the dash, and I kept reaching for that non-existent gear shift. Ultimately I decided I’d rather have my nice, basic economy car – luxury just doesn’t fit Cordelia’s Mom.

    • There is NO way I could handle that. Given me a key and a gear shift. I don’t need anything fancy. I just need to know I won’t end up stuck on the side of the road in a blizzard. Again.

  4. Funny. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. Probably.

  5. You better hope Joanna somehow doesn’t see this post, or she’ll yak your ear off for hours with a Yah Yah Sisterhood bravado and try to mail you traveling pants or something.

    Kindred spirits.

    We just bought a new (used) vehicle to replace her beloved 1997 Jeep Cherokee. She absolutely HATES push button ignitions and seriously asked every dealer what they could show her in manual roll up windows. Seriously.

    • Well, I don’t know about sharing pants–unless they’re super comfortable yoga pants, of course–but I couldn’t get into the push button ignition either. But even my old Blazer had electric windows. What car doesn’t these days? Good luck with that 😉

    • Joanna sees all the posts on Abby’s blog. Joanna likes Abby’s blog a lot. Yes, Mike is right. I love my 1997 Jeep and would still be driving it if it were easy to somehow carve two extra doors in the thing making it carseat friendly. (I am keeping the Jeep though – it’s in my name only and Mike can’t make me sell it. Ever) I do really prefer manual windows. I hate bells and whistles in a car. I just want it to go all the time (and have four doors apparently) even in the snow and that is pretty much my only requirement. I’ve only driven “my” new car three times now and I froze every time because I have no clue how the freaking heater works! Also my pregnancy nose swears it has a smell which my husband and pretty much everybody we know except for my friend Julie disagrees with. So I haven’t made friends with my new used car either. Someday.

      • How did I miss that you’re pregnant again? I really need to start reading blogs more. Ugh. Anyway, yes. I just want reliable. No bells and whistles, as that sounds loud and confusing to me.

        • Meh, it’s easy to miss. I am so not a “mommy blogger” which means you’ll never hear what cravings I had for the day, how much weight I gained or how many millimeters my belly grew that week. You’re welcome.

  6. Having just bought my husband a newish car with many bells and whistles, I understand your plight. With this car, you don’t even NEED a key. You just have to have the thingamajiggy in your pocket and when you get close enough to the car, it recognizes it and you can just open up the previously locked door. It’s wizardry, I say. Congrats on the new ride.

  7. Funny. We just did this–but in reverse, back to a really dumb car. In the interest of getting our finances completely on track over an 18-month period of NO NEW DEBT, we got rid of our new(er) car, with heated seats (which you will soon love), pushbutton start (also love), and a dashboard that told me EVERYTHING, including when a tire had low air…and downsized to driving our daughter’s 23-year-old paid-for Toyota coupe (family of four–not fun). Includes optional duct-taped antenna and some major dents, and the dash tells me NOthing (like “you’re out of oil”. Yeah…that would help).

    I’m just glad now when I turn the key, and…it starts! Yay, we can go home!

    You’ll find a lot to love with all the bells and whistles, I promise. 🙂 My turn’s coming again, but I have to wait til spring. wah-

    • I’m not complaining, especially because it wasn’t extra money for all these things. It was used and they wanted to get rid of it, otherwise I would never have sprung for fanciness (cars that start are fancy to me.) And good luck with NO NEW DEBT. That’s huge. I don’t do debt except that whole house thing. So much less stress…;)

  8. “Along with starting my new car, I plan to use it as a silver spear of self-defense should the occasion arise.” – HA!

    I had a very similar experience with heated seats – mostly because I didn’t even know my car had heated seats!

  9. Thanks for labeling the picture, Abby. I was getting kind of confused about what it was a picture of until I saw those handy captions. Thank you.

  10. Wait… so you mean to tell me that this sort of thing happens to other people?? I am intrigued… I literally laughed out loud. I loved the line “defrost my front windows and possibly a Thanksgiving turkey” not only because it’s hilarious, but you’ve provided me with a fabulous new technique to add to my culinary repertoire of meal time disasters (haha).

  11. I still can;t get over your mom being on the news. I know this doesn’t belong here, but that was awesome.

    Oh and great post.

  12. Congratulations on your new vehicle! It looks great! Good luck trying to change your gas pump pull up habits. My experience is that one can never re-learn which side of the car has the gas fill tube. 🙂

  13. This is just HILARIOUS and painful at the same time. I hope the relationship you started with your car friend goes well.

  14. HA! The only thing I like about my minivan with all that stuff is the butt warmer. Its the only thing that makes schlepping the kids all over town to their various winter activities in the dark past 5pm tolerable!

  15. Having a new car with all sorts of buttons to push is fun! I bought a new (to me) car 30 months ago and I just discovered the other day that it has a heated steering wheel.

    So while it might not be all that much fun making that payment every month, just think of all the unexpected features you will be able to blog about over the next couple of years as you discover them! Forget the owner’s manual – just push every button you see and find out what they do on your own 🙂

    • Actually, no payment every month. Just paid and got it out of the way, which is why I’m now paranoid some big huge expense will come up and I’ll have to live in my car (knock on wood.) But seeing as you’re in GR, watch out for someone accidentally driving with her windshield wipers, OnStar, heated seats and flashers on until about July 😉

  16. I’ll do that but it might be hard to pick you out of all the other drivers around here doing the exact same thing 🙂

  17. I love heated seats. Both my Volvos have had them. Congrats on your new ride, girlfriend. I tend to keep a car forever. My ’87 Volvo had 276,000 miles on it when I traded it in for the 2002 Volvo I have now, which I plan on keeping till I expire. What really freaks me out on all the new cars is this “key bob” thingie, where you only have to have it in the car to push the start button. The “start button?!”

  18. Abby – so cute! I like “That’s another reason I can’t have nice things.” Detroit needs to come up with car features especially for Estrogen Americans. 🙂

  19. Hey there, long time…
    If I had a vehicle with of that stuff, I’d get anxiety. I guess that is why I drive a jeep. It has NONE of those things. It even has a regular key! Imagine that…

  20. Love the ‘temporary moment of panic’ about the heated seats. I just love reading your posts and rarely fail to have at least one ‘laugh out loud’ moment during each one. You’re one of my sanity savers!!

  21. Clearly, I couldn’t handle one of those smarter car thingys. although the defroster for the turkey may come in handy next week… Also, since I have the nickname “leaky,” I don’t think heated seats are an option for me!

  22. Aaah first world problems lol

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