I've recently returned from a week-long trip to Boulder. In a rented mini-van. The word "mini" is a misnomer. This was a Chrysler Town and Country that made my Honda Insight feel like a scooter. I eventually got used to the size. What threw me, however, was the radio. I'm from the old school of radio operation. Two knobs. All you do is twist them. One to make the sound louder or softer; one to change stations. What more do you need? I've adjusted to buttons that scan. But touch screens? In a car? Does Ralph Nader know about this? I guess I've been living in the proverbial cave but I must've missed the segue when radios became computers. This radio featured a screen, surrounded by buttons. I could only guess at what functions the buttons were responsible for. "Media." "Aux" "Sound" "Radio" "My Files." And 3 or 4 more I have forgotten. And one knob. A tiny knob for volume. Why am I spending all this time on the radio? Because the radio is the villain of this piece.
Whenever I pushed Media or Radio or one of the others, the screen changed, giving me choices on the touch screen which I found bewildering. As the screens changed, I thought I was watching a PowerPoint presentation on combat operations on the Eastern Front. And I was losing. The options overwhelmed me. Do you know the difference between "scan," "search," and "seek"? Me neither. All I know is I would touch one of the arrows, the station would change, and before I could decide if I liked it or not, it had moved on. "The moving finger writes, and the scan continues to scan."
So, I'm driving through Kansas, heading home, trying to find some music either on FM or on my iPod (which was controlled by "Aux.") My wife is reading and my two Golden Retrievers are sleeping. I'm about 30 miles east of Hays, an unattractive town that pulls in unsuspecting motorists like flies to fly paper. It's a dreary stretch of motels and chain restaurants that offer respite from the flat Kansas landscape. A virtual oasis, if your expectations are low or your needs urgent. I'm fiddling with the radio, trying to find something besides religion or country. My eyes shift between the screen and the road, trying to make sure I don't rear-end someone. I should have added speedometer to my eye-balling.
I'm behind a woman in a blue Toyota Prius in the passing lane. For some unknown reason she has slowed up. "C'mon, lady," I say aloud. "If you're gonna go slow, at least pull over." She doesn't. I hit the accelerator (the T&C is a 6 cylinder job, unlike my little Honda), and fly past her on the right, giving her a dirty look. Got to move, can't slow down, got to get out of Kansas before sunset. Yee-haw! That's about when a car pulls in behind me and I see bright red and blue lights flashing below his windshield. Not on top of the car, where you can spot them a distance away. Yep, it's the highway patrol. He's nailed me.
As I pull onto the shoulder, the blue Prius drifts by. I don't have the stomach to look at her. I know what she's thinking. The state trooper comes over, I give him my most pathetic look, trying to look old and frail. He tells me how fast I was going. I tell him I was trying to get to a Rest Area so we could feed our beautiful, hungry dogs. The trooper shows no emotion. A hard man, I think. Too many years with a badge. Anyway, to end this tale, I'll just tell you I got a ticket, but it was for 80 mph, which is not a moving violation, as the very polite trooper explains. So it won't affect my insurance. Believe it or not, I thank him for his kindness. He then tells me that the radar detector I have stuck to my windshield - which didn't utter a sound through all of this - is a dead giveaway that I like to speed. Cops look for that, he says. He also tells me I can mail in the fine, or appear in court in Hays in October. Easy answer. His parting words are, "Now you can feed your dogs."
I pull back onto the highway, turn off the radio, unplug my radar detector and shove it into the glove compartment, slap the ticket into the visor without looking at the fine, and head for a motel in Salinas. We won't get out of Kansas by nightfall.