When my friend offered me a ride in her new all-electric, autonomous car, I looked it over with admiration, but also with puzzlement. I guess the car’s sleek and streamlined look would’ve been spoiled by door handles, because there weren’t any. I stood beside the front passenger door and scratched my head in puzzlement. How was I to get in? Closer inspection revealed a quarter-sized button beside the door. I cautiously pushed it. The door popped open a few inches. I opened it the rest of the way, climbed in, and buckled up.
The dashboard resembled that of a jetliner and featured a huge computer monitor populated by dozens of apps, icons, and prompts. The car had everything but the kitchen sink, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if one of those popped out of a hidden compartment, if only I knew which of the multitude of buttons to push. My friend started the car’s nearly silent motor and we took the ramp to the expressway. Moving smoothly and quietly with the traffic at 70 mph, she demonstrated the car’s self-driving ability by removing her hands from the steering wheel and her foot from the gas pedal! The car fairly flew down the expressway, adjusting its speed and its placement in the lane as cars whizzed by on either side.
It was terrifying. The driver (let’s call her Diana, because that’s really her name) knows how old I am and that I have high blood pressure and a family history of heart attacks and strokes. “Um,” I warned, “we’re getting closer to that semi in front of us, and we’re still going 70 mph!”
I panicked and began stomping the floorboard like a parent giving her teen his first driving lesson, in a desperate attempt to find a non-existent brake pedal on my side. Apparently the car had a very strong floorboard or I’d have stomped a hole through it and stopped the car the way Fred Flintstone used to in the opening to his cartoon show, which would’ve left me with a shredded shoe and an urgent need for a podiatric surgeon.
Speaking of urgent need, I asked, “Does this car have waterproof seats? No, no particular reason, but never mind my previous request to stop at the next rest-stop. If I’m ever foolish enough to ride in this car again, I’ll be wearing Depends. By the way, we’re still approaching that semi at breakneck speed!”
“Don’t worry,” she said calmly. “It’ll adapt to that.”
Sure enough, the car’s speed slowly dropped and settled at a speed which kept a safe distance between us and tucked neatly between cars on either side of us.
I wondered if Diana had considered the possibility that her car may be haunted by a previous owner; one who probably died when he was showing off to a friend and took his hands off the wheel and it slammed into the back of a semi. Maybe it was pay-back time. She assured me that she’d bought it new, and there was no previous owner, ghostly or otherwise, but if it was making me that nervous she could turn off the self-driving feature, the implication being that I’m a dinosaur who is stuck in “the old days.”
I’m just not ready for this latest technology advance. I’ve barely accepted the other advances of the current age. I’m still fearful every time I sit on one of those self-flushing toilets. What if its forceful flush disembowels me if I don’t stand up quickly enough? While we’re on the topic, I don’t like the other public restroom features, like the tap water that turns on by itself or the hand dryer that comes on when you wave at it. The dryer doesn’t even dry my hands; it just blows my aging skin into wrinkly folds that flap like sheets in the wind. It’s bad for my self-esteem.
I refuse to get a robot vacuum, either. What if it grabs my shoestring in passing and drags me around the house? There’s even a robotic lawn mower you can program to groom your yard while you sit inside in the air conditioning sipping a mint julep and reading a good book. Why, that’s ridiculous. The laziness! I’d never…wait…it’ll mow my yard? Out in the hot summer sun, with the bugs, and the weeds, and the sweating? OK, I’ll take one of those, but I refuse to ride in it, in case it runs into a semi. One trip in a self-driving vehicle was more than enough.