Gwendolyn, my traveling companion for the last 13 years, will reach her 20th birthday soon. The door-jamb sticker, placed for aesthetic reasons I suppose on the underside of the console lid, advises that she was assembled in beautiful downtown Yokosuka in September 1999. She’s picked up a few noises here and there, and more than once she’s had to have her sheetmetal ironed out a bit, but her consumption of fuelstuffs is no greater now than it was when we were getting acquainted, and, perhaps of greater interest in these digital days, she knows her place: the man with the key is in charge. Cars half her age seem to have forgotten this minor detail:
The 2009 Corvette was made entirely “drive by wire,” just like the Space Shuttle. You remember the Space Shuttle, don’t you? Before NASA retired that design and all its instantiations, it managed to kill fourteen astronauts. Couldn’t keep the heat-ablation tiles attached to the fuselage, but there were computers everywhere. Great design.
Not to go too far afield … I was on my way back from Mass yesterday morning when I stopped at a local convenience store for a half-gallon of milk. You remember milk, don’t you? The perfect food! Makes ice cream possible and cold breakfast cereals scrumptious! It’s also arguably responsible for the radical reduction in infant mortality in the early decades of the Twentieth Century. Never mind about your “lactose intolerance.” Ignore the cows lowing about how we should “eat mor chikin;” they’re always cranky at this hour of the morning.
Whoops, there I go again … To return to the main drama, I paid for my milk, got into Joy, closed the driver’s side door snugly behind me, fastened my seat belt — always fasten your seat belt before burning rubber out of a convenience store parking lot — and pressed the Start button. Nothing happened. Not even a click to indicate the engagement of the starter motor. I tried again. Same result.
I muttered an oath, released myself from the embrace of the seat belt, and let myself out of the car. That is, I tried to let myself out of the car by pressing the button that releases the door latch. Nothing happened. I tried again, and again, and again. No dice.
The doors are “drive by wire” too. Whatever had failed had operated just long enough to let me into the car before it crapped out. My Corvette had imprisoned me.
The fix, once identified as the fix, cost little in coin of the realm, but a great deal in aggravation and in the revival of some Anglo-Saxon unpleasantries. I think I shall not gripe again about Gwendolyn’s most egregious feature: electronically-controlled engine mounts.