by Than Pence
While looking at cars, I hope to make my daughter more aware as a consumer.
|It all started when we decided to buy a new car. Tess, my teenage daughter, said we should get one of those new cars that drives itself. I reminded her that she’d still have to know how to drive because some states don’t allow self-driving cars. And they’re expensive
“Like I’d get caught! Mary says her cousin’s step-dad uses it all the time in Illinois. He just mimes like he’s driving.”
“There’s no Noise in Illinois, dear. Don’t roll your eyes. You know that a license plate changes color when the car drives itself. That’s how they catch you in Illinois.”
“Then I guess Mary’s cousin’s step-dad disabled it, or something. Mary’s really smart. I bet it runs in the family.”
I didn’t correct her on the fact that auto-license plate tampering sent warnings to the DMV, or that Mary’s intellect wasn’t remotely linked to her cousin’s step-father. I simply reminded Tess that she was going to appreciate her driving skills in the future.
“Maybe if I become a trucker.”
“Or a letter carrier?”
She scoffed. “When’s the last time you saw one, Dad?”
I grimaced. It had been a while.
“Anyway, I think one of those new solar/electric/wind power hybrids is the ticket.”
“I heard those aren’t reliable, Dad. I heard they only work when it’s really really sunny. That the power stored from daytime doesn’t last until midnight. That wind power doesn’t really contribute that much overall… and the designs are awful. I mean, smooth edges? Tinted windows? Big boxes with bigger windows is the way to drive. Then everyone sees you.”
I rolled my eyes, smiling. “Maybe I don’t want you out until midnight.”
“And maybe I don’t want to drive around in a box, sweetie.”
“That’s apparent. We’re the only family on the block in a low-ride coup.”
“When I was a kid, ‘low-ride’ was hugging the ground. A thin adult can roll under our car, Tess.”
“Ugh. I know, Dad. And I check every time. I swear!”
I smiled again, happy that my daughter knew I was serious about her personal safety. “I think you’re right about the wind power. How can something so boxy even be aerodynamic?”
“Professor Mueller says it’s a conspiracy to make us spend more while making the consumer feel ‘self-righteous’.”
“Air quotes aren’t necessary.”
“I’m just saying.”
The discussion went on for several minutes while I clicked back and forth between sites, all the while wondering about the automobile names: WindSuun, Graphyte, Bloom, Precize, Soular, and Xta Larj.
“Blooms are hideous. Super-churchies drive Soulars. Everyone knows that guys with small things drive Xta Larjs. And why is there a W between the S and N. How do you pronounce that, Dad?”
“It’s WindSuun. Those are two U’s, not one W.”
“So… it’s a double-U?” She smiled at her observant humor. I laughed.
“That’s true.” I wanted to tell her not to worry about men’s “things”, but thought that might force her to dwell on the subject. “So, I guess it’s something like a Graphyte or a Precize?”
I knew I wasn’t going to choose our next car based on its name – though I couldn’t help thinking ‘Graphyte’ was the best of all evils. Tess pondered.
“Well, Koop’s dad drives a Graphyte. I hear it breaks down a lot. And the Precize LE that the McMillers drive? It’s like they have to keep it plugged in. I mean, what if they need to go to Fresh Mart? There’s no outlets!”
“You do have a point. We need a car whose battery life is more consistent with our own life.” Tess and I shopped at Fresh Mart. It was in the Right Haven District and didn’t require electrical outlets in the parking lot. Tess and I had offered several rides to strangers abandoned by their electrically-impaired autos just outside the market.
“Hey, go back.” I clicked. “This says a WindSuun battery can go for three days. Then there’s an ashtrick.”
I didn’t see her roll her eyes, but I heard it. Parents hear that kind of thing. “Okay. Next to the asterisk it says that figure is based on ‘optimal driving conditions and no fewer than three hours of operation per day’.”
“What does that mean, honey?”
She looked perplexed. “What?”
I wanted her to think about the statement. “What do you think that means?”
She looked from me to the screen. “It means we can drive for three days… Oh! No! It means we can only drive for… for nine hours!”
I nodded, and couldn’t keep myself from grinning at my daughter’s realization, at her indignation over the carefully worded statement.
“They’re liars, Dad! That’s slander!”
“Uh, well, it’s not slander. But it does almost sound like a lie, doesn’t it?”
“Nine hours? They flat out say you can go without a charge for three days, but really only mean a total of nine hours! How can they say that?”
I explained to her that the company probably used a national average of drive times to compile the data. Then I asked her to think about how much time she and I spent driving.
“Well, you drop me off at school, you drive to work, then home. We go shopping, to the park. I drive some on the weekends.”
“And do you think we could live without charging the car for a maximum of nine hours? Or …” I squinted at the little letters. “A minimum of seven hours.”
“Oh, no. We only go places that are close. Your job is probably the farthest at twenty minutes.”
“Depending on traffic. And pedestrian intelligence.”
“So, yeah!” she said, excited. “I think that could work, Dad.”
“Me too. But we’re still just looking now. And… I think it’s time for bed.”
“Ugh. Alright, Dad. Love you.”
“Love you too, honey. G’night.”
It started when we decided to buy a new car, and the night ended with my daughter learning how to do a little critical thinking for herself. I felt proud.
Word Count: 1,000