Pilot and Tech Support
Pilot and Tech Support
April 6, 2009
We recently acquired a minivan. Half of my readers just mentally snorted at the wretched direction my life has taken. You pity me.
The other half of you have actually been inside a modern minivan. You know that a minivan is the mullet of automobiles, and by that I mean it is all business in the front, and a party in the back. It’s a little slice of heaven on wheels. I love my minivan. Yeah, I said it.
We were forced to consider minivans because our Toyota Highlander had an annoying noise that wouldn’t go away. It sounded roughly like “Mom, there isn’t enough leg room! Make someone else sit in the back next time!” We tried turning up the volume on the radio to drown it out, but that was only partly successful. So we started looking at minivans.
After extensive shopping we narrowed our minivan choices to either a Honda or a Toyota. The Honda had an edge in back seat comfort, mileage, and console layout. But the Toyota salesman assured us that after a few years of use the Honda would rattle apart and spontaneously dissemble itself in our garage. He said we would one day come out to the garage and find nothing but a pile of parts, each one trying to crawl away from the others. The Toyota, by way of contrast, was built tight, our salesman explained. It would survive a nuclear attack without the tires getting out of alignment. This was all suspiciously difficult to verify, given that it involved the future. And Google was silent on this issue. So we went with the comfy back seats. It seemed the quieter option.
Our minivan is packed with so many features that it changes the entire driving paradigm. In the old model you had a driver and several passengers. Now you have a pilot and a full-time manager of tech support in the front, with several disgruntled users in the back. From the moment the humans enter the minivan, the manager of tech support gets busy. My wife, who I call Spock during family drives, is responsible for the navigation unit, synching the BlackBerry to the speaker system, adjusting the XM satellite stations, loading the DVD, instructing occupants about how to move seats, locking and unlocking doors, and so on. Her job is never done because the users never stop submitting change orders.
As pilot, I try to tune out everything but the sultry and sometimes scolding voice of the navigation unit. If I allow myself to get invested in the tangle of tech support and political issues bubbling over in the rest of the vehicle I will lose concentration and drive into a ravine. Although I’d be lying if I said it isn’t a tempting option after the fifteenth change order gets submitted, just before I fire up the rear bumper video camera, and the distance sonar, and start backing out of the garage.
The XM satellite radio is a wonderful invention. It has an endless variety of music. But for reasons I haven’t yet discerned, all we ever hear is Daughtry and Lady Gaga. I would be fine with this arrangement if Daughtry didn’t sound like two mules dragging a barn door over crushed stones. I need to talk to Spock about that, but she is always buried in work orders.
My point is that minivans are wonderful. If you like Daughtry.