So far, I have not been able to work up much enthusiasm for the so-called "self-driving" cars which we are assured will be available Real Soon Now; the only aspect I think I'd like is the self-parking feature that first appeared in the States on the Lexus LS sedan in 2007, and this is mainly because I am not particularly proficient at parallel parking, and I go out of my way to avoid getting practice, even if it means I have to walk a block or two.

Then again, parallel parking is one of the few aspects of driving I truly dislike, right up there with unwrapping the new auto-insurance policy every six months, which is almost invariably more expensive than before. Happily, I don't have to do either very much. And the time spent moving forward in my ride of choice is golden: it never quite sinks to the level of drudgery, except when I'm not moving forward because of some act of stupidity, several hundred yards — or worse, several thousand yards — up ahead, at which point I tend to utter unwarranted assumptions about the culprit's parentage and other deep, dark depredations.

I am forced to acknowledge, however, that many people well and truly hate their daily commutes, and that mass-transit options would appeal greatly to them if the logistics worked out. In my case, the logistics don't work out: bus stops are more conveniently placed for me than you might think, but two hours in and two hours back is 3:20 longer than it takes me to drive the 10.6-mile loop. And what bothers me, I think, is that people will look at that and think, "Oh, wow, three hours I can use to get stuff done."

Get stuff done? What can they do on the bus that they can't do at home? And this is where I part ways with these folks. One of my desiderata is a distinct line of demarcation between Work Hours and Non-Work Hours, and that line is paved with asphalt. I'm not taking my work home with me, and the stuff I'm not taking home, I'm not bringing back the next day.

I must emphasize that I am low on the corporate org chart, and seldom are any of my functions needed on a 24/7 basis; as a general rule, the office won't call me unless they're in the sort of bind that only I can loosen, and examples of same are few and far between. This is not to say that my position is unimportant, or that I'm easily replaced; however, damn little I do has to be done Right This Instant Or Else, and since it is tacitly acknowledged that I manage time superbly well, they're generally loath to play the Emergency card.

And that's just as well, since if I know I have something horrible about to crawl onto my plate, it's going to affect me in several negative ways, some of which people would just as soon not witness if they could possibly help it. For this reason and others, if I do mess up, which I am forced to admit is not entirely impossible, I disclose the matter as quickly as possible, rather than wait around for the error to be discovered. (All by itself, this tendency should disqualify me for any political office above the level of dogcatcher.) I do not want my dinner spoiled, or a night's sleep ruined, by foreknowledge of impending doom; I get enough of that from non-work functions.

Tooling down the superslab in the dark — with the exception of a few days around the Summer Sun Celebration Solstice, I tend to arrive well before sunrise — is not high on my list of Fun Things, but it's over with quickly enough, and no amount of automation is likely to improve on it. (To pull off some of these techno-tricks, contemporary cars are liberally festooned with sensors and cameras, and while sensors don't care so much, cameras are distinctly disadvantaged by darkness.) The notion of just sitting there and farting around on the laptop while the car whisks me off to far-off 42nd and Treadmill does not resonate with me in the slightest; nor, for that matter, does the idea of shelling out forty grand or more for new wheels with new electronic servants, not all of whom I am likely to trust from day one.

And hey: Lexus dropped the self-parking feature in the LS after 2012. One should never assume that Toyota doesn't know what it's doing.

The Vent

  25 October 2014

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