“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”—Albert Einstein
As the holidays approach, and the weather finally wakes every dark morning with a chill and the occasional snow flurry, I decide the time has come to protect my new electric car parked in the driveway with an outdoor cover as technologically marvelous as the vehicle itself. I waited 3 months for this triple-layered marvel to arrive and feel it’s very appropriate that its stunning, modern fabric will wrap the car in silver lined with fleece for the holidays. But, I’d forgotten how hard it is to get a truly form-fitting car cover installed properly, because I’d never done it alone before. Like the 1950s ski pants we used to be shaken into by a willing collaborator, there seems no way to squeeze the body of the car into this cover on my own. Whatever the impervious outer shell is made of, the cold weather and high winds render it completely non-negotiable and inflexible. But the car stood there, naked, the cover lying in a heap on the ground, and rather than ring my neighbors’ bell and ask for help, I decided I’d better figure it out on my own as I’d be doing it many times in years to come.
I’m going to spare you much of the frustration of this poignant tale because I have yet another to tell and not enough space, but suffice it to say the cover took too much time to put on and had me in a heavy sweat. Figuring out the exact protocol for heaping it on the car’s roof, pulling it down to fit over the sexy aerodynamic mirrors, and then finally over the hood and rear trunk without it recoiling at both ends, since no one was there to hold them down, was a haphazard process at best. I grew angry and panicky as I checked my watch, but I finally completed it and walked into the house, breathing heavily and wiping the sweat from my brow, only to realize my shopping bag was still inside the tightly wrapped car. I had no time to indulge in the self-pity this discovery unleashed, and so raced outside to figure out how to pry the ‘ski pants’ part way off the car, allowing me to see the bag inside and then open only a tiny sliver of the door so the whole cover didn’t need to be redone. How complicated things get when you’re going it alone. I should have asked for help. But the car hadn’t finished with me yet.
The freezing temperatures and threatening snow convinced me that snow tires for the new car were a must before setting off on a Christmas excursion to Vermont. I’d never purchased them alone so did much studying, and finally ordered tires and wheels online from Tire Rack. They knew, of course, all the pertinent information about size and the make, model and year of the new car, and they suggested a ‘shop’ near me to have them delivered to for installation. Calling that designated mechanic at the appointed time, I found, after the dead silence my opening introduction elicited, that they’d never worked on my make or model before, and blamed that on the fact that its year of manufacture was this current one (hardly my fault). Mostly he was angry, inferring that only spoiled people who couldn’t change their own tires would have such an automobile; even though that was, of course, his business.
My older son, an engineer who lives on the West Coast surrounded by automotive innovation, suggested I tell the tire shop owner that he needed to put on his big-boy pants and accept the new technologies. I loved the thought but rejected it for obvious reasons. And this man also stated he was way too busy to do the work for another two weeks, even though he had claimed he didn’t know how to do it at all. Again, I will spare you all the tortuous details, but I called the Internet tire people as well as the car’s manufacturer, who suggested perhaps they should ‘save me’ with one of their mobile units that could come directly to my home.
Knowing that I could do it myself with the right floor jack and a few tools which I’d learned from a YouTube video and page 141 of the digital owner’s manual online, I called another tire center 200 yards across from the guy with the baby-boy pants, and the tire center’s response to my question as to whether they’d ever worked on a car like mine before was, ‘of course! All models’. When I asked if they had any availability soon, they said, ‘Just bring it in and we can do it for you anytime. That’s what we do.’
All so interesting…the first guy was insulted that I asked him to work on the car because ‘nobody out here’ had any knowledge of it (meaning him), and the second guy was insulted that I would question his knowledge because of course, anyone in the business (meaning him) has worked on a car like this. These two businesses are 200 yards apart on the same road, so, as usual, it all depends on your POV, as we writers know. Why not just pick up the new tires and wheels from the first guy and drive them over to the second guy to install? I probably will, but only after I’ve tried to be the ambassador-at-large for electric cars. I’ve printed the manual with instructions and diagrams and downloaded the YouTube video on my phone for him. It’s not intimidating, but simple and discreet, as these electric cars truly are. Maybe he’ll be intrigued and see the light. And if he doesn’t, there’s always the second guy.
Does all of this seem hard because I’m doing it alone for the first time in my life? Maybe, but learning from the dilemma of covering a car alone without another set of hands, I did reach out like an octopus to get help, even resorting to the internet, which was appropriate for a dilemma of technological proportions. And as my new car sits in the driveway with its holiday outfit on and fancy new shoes in the form of snow tires, it appears to be ready for Christmas, all alone in its sleek, silver finery. But I know that what appears to be a solitary victory was really a collaborative effort all the way, and I look at the car that’s the rejoinder to the combustion of fossil fuels and smile broadly, envisioning Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All.