Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Features for Irresponsible Creatures

Tom Malloy once pointed out to me that Microsoft often identifies its bugs as "features".

While I was in Alaska, I drove a 15-passenger van which was sometimes completely full of Australians. Forget about the Australians for a minute though, because I want to talk about the van.

We had about a month with no nighttime, and yet I was still supposed to turn on the headlights whenever I drove. If I forgot, someone from the Alaska Department of Transportation would tell me to turn them on over the CB Radio (sometimes not very politely).

Anyway, I got into a good habit of nearly always turning the headlights on as soon as I started the van, which of course led to a new problem: remembering to turn them off. I killed the van's battery several times, and sometimes the Australians had to stand around and silently reflect on my incompetence while I jump-started the van. (I got really good at jump-starting.)

At home I never have this problem. I drive a Subaru, which will turn its own headlights off if you remove the key from the ignition. This is a great system that prevents a lot of forgetful people like me from getting stranded. The only possible drawback is that you are out of luck on all of those occasions when you need your headlights on and your keys in your hand.

But how often does that happen? Why can't you just leave your keys in the ignition? I'm convinced that we Americans demand the option of being idiots and hurting ourselves. That's why the nifty Subaru feature has never caught on with the other car companies. If I want to strand myself with a dead battery, then by gum, you better let me do it! Even if I don't do it on purpose!

Yeah, maybe its kind of insulting when a heap of belts, fans, pistons, etc. assumes that it knows better than you. But sometimes it does. I like the headlight feature, and I'm humble enough to admit it.


judy said...

but what about the Australians?

Mr. Marbles said...

I've driven a Jeep, a VW, a Volvo, and a Chevy within the last few months and they all have an 'auto' position for the lights and then a manual on and off. I leave it on auto and I never have to think about it or push any buttons slash turn any dials. The Jeep even turned the high beams on when it was particularly dark and back off when someone came the other direction. It was amazing. The lights just do their own thing.

eped said...

now hold on there mr. marbles. this is just way too much. I guess I've never been in the army, but there's really only so much headlight control I'm willing to give up. but I like that auto/manual option.

places where precocious technologies go to far:
factory installed car alarms.
smoke detectors that won't give up the ghost.
most of the stuff that ms word does to your document without asking.

becky said...

i have to admit, it took a lot of willpower to forget about the Australians right after you brought them up like that.

subaru's are great cars.

T.R. said...

Wait a sec, eped. It seems you ought to familiarize yourself with a concept called "Nightrrider".

Judy and Becky, I promise that whatever you are imagining as the explanation for the Australians is much more interesting then the real explanation. For that reason, I cannot elaborate. (Sorry.)

T.R. said...

The extra 'r' is for more engine revving.

Mark said...

You crushed my hope of a exciting Australian story, but you more than satisfied my other hope of a forget to turn your headlights/jump starting van story.

Michelle 2021 said...

Everyone knows Australians are show-offs.