These days, one of ODOT's pet contractors is redoing the intersection of Interstate 35 and Interstate 44, and given the condition of the junction — the bridge itself wasn't too horrible, but the roadbed, especially southbound, would have embarrassed a Third World country — you can't really blame ODOT for spending the money. The temporary asphalt is not quite wide enough to accommodate two trucks, which is fun all by itself. But only two or three times in a couple of month has traffic northbound toward the junction has traffic been moving at the posted 50 mph, and I have yet to see anyone actually crossing the bridge at 50. Tailgaters, of course, are offended by this sort of thing, so they rush to get as close as possible to the dawdling vehicle and hit the brakes. And the worst of them have had their brake lights doctored so that the high-mounted center light blinks three times. "Don't look at the rest of the road," they cry: "look at me!" A blink in a traffic lane is at least as irritating as a <BLINK> tag on a Web page; at least the online version has been deprecated.

Oncoming lights aren't a whole lot better these days. At least in the days of boring old sealed-beam headlights, there was at least a measurable chance that the approaching vehicle was cared for by someone who knew how to aim the blasted things. Not anymore. That long ladder of LEDs is almost always aimed at your face, and what can you do about it? It's worse with today's taller vehicles; if I didn't know better — and who says I do? — I'd swear that people do this deliberately out of some perverse form of self-aggrandizement. The worst, of course, is the guy in the jacked-up pickup; when someone asks "What are the biggest rims I can put on my truck?" I silently mourn. Sometimes not so silently.

At the top of Gwendolyn's center stack is a flat tray that opens with a pushbutton; apparently Nissan had prepared this space for a navigation system, but none of the advertising for that model year shows a nav screen, so I assumed that the nav was not available until 2001. I did, however, ask the parts guy at the local dealership if it might be possible to get the nav box for a 2000 model. He punched some buttons on a keyboard, paused, punched some more, and finally pronounced that yes, it could be done, for a price well into four figures. Before I dared ask, the parts guy added: "Plus labor, which would be —" but by then I have to assume that I passed out. Eventually I learned that the system relied on a package of DVDs, which has to be replaced about every other year at a price that would make your nose bleed. "Forget that," I said, and the next World Tour ('07), I entrusted the wayfinding business to Messrs. Rand and McNally, who work for peanuts by comparison.

Then again, I drive a car that's nearly two decades old; I'm missing a whole lot of New! Improved! Features! Bah. The first gimmick I'd turn off in a new car would be the instantaneous fuel-economy readout, which is completely and utterly useless. At any given moment, I could be getting 6 mpg — or 60. I am persuaded that the mileage I get, which is comfortably above the numbers promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency, ia due to the fact that I don't even come close to hypermiling.

Wait, what? Self-driving cars? You must be joking, man. Half the cars already are not under the control of the driver, who's busy apologizing to the significant other for whatever the heck it was that happened over the weekend.

The Vent

  9 January 2019

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