Driving My New Car Up the Learning Curve

I just traded in my 10-year-old Subaru for a brand new car. A Ford Focus Hatchback. I am embarrassed to tell you how difficult it is for me, getting acclimated to this thing. We are talking about an American car here. Four-cylinders. As Michele put it, this vehicle is “basically a golf cart.” And she is right. In my defense, though, it is pretty fancy as far as golf carts go. My issues thus far are as follows:

The Voice Command Feature

One really great feature of my new car is that it takes voice commands. How awesome is that?!

night rider

One really bad feature of my car is that it is a terrible listener. Hopefully the car and I can cultivate a Kitt/Hasselhoff-type relationship as time goes on, but we aren’t there yet. Not even close. An actual exchange between the car and me while trying to get directions to Atlanta Blood Services:

Car: Please say a command.

Me: Navigation.

Car: I’m sorry. What was that?

Me: Navi GAY shun!

Car: Sorry, I’m having trouble understanding you.


The car, trying it’s best (I suppose), turned on a Sirius station called “Hair Nation.” Lady Luck was playing. And I like Tesla as much as the next gal, but really I just wanted to donate some platelets and get back home.
(My directions to Atlanta Blood Services)

The Windshield Wipers

The wipers on this new car are mounted laterally. When you turn them on, they move medially. They come millimeters from hitting one another with every swipe. They create an “X.” A urgent warning. It is scary. Like I’m crashing through a railroad crossing every three seconds. If the wipers on my last car were a graceful pair of synchronized swimmers, back and forth in perfect harmony, the new wipers are opponents on American Gladiators.
swimmersAmerican Gladiators

Think of that gesture people make with their arms when they are trying to communicate no from a great distance – hands waving back and forth frantically and repeatedly crossing in the middle. No! Don’t drink that, it is poisoned! or No! I don’t want to talk on the phone, tell her I’m not here! The gesture that accompanies those types of sentiments. That is the gesture my car makes when I turn on the wipers. Should I turn back? Is the weather too treacherous for travel? Is that what the car is trying to tell me?

The Satellite Radio

Satellite radio is certainly not new, but it is new to me. As with satellite television, there are more stations at my disposal than I care to count, and as with satellite television, I only like about three of them. Why is that? Am I really that picky?

One of the Sirius stations plays sexually explicit programming. It is called Sex Chat or Radio Porn or something like that. Michele, riding shot gun during a shopping excursion last Saturday, called out the name of the station while glossing over the Sirius pamphlet and asked me what in the world I thought they played. There was a tone of disgust to her voice, so I said, “I don’t know, lets turn it on.” And really, what else were two female friends going to listen to after brunch while sitting in Atlanta traffic on the way to Anthropologie to shop for dresses? It was the obvious choice.

I thought it would be humorous, but I was mistaken. A better description of what we heard would be straight-up gross. About fifteen seconds into Radio Porn, a sense of panic set in and I screamed. Maybe this was what the windshield wipers had been trying to warn me about. Anyway, Michele rolled her eyes in an I-told-you-so fashion and turned the station to NPR. We were relieved to enjoy two of the most Portlandia-esque interviews imaginable: the first featured the creator of Etsy, who is now working to open a school “for dreamers under seven and over seventy,” and the second turned the spotlight on a woman in New York who owns not only a rickshaw, but a fitness boutique called Soulcycle where they do spin class by candlelight.

The Locks

The door lock/unlock button for my new car is mounted in the center of the dash and not on the door. I learned this not in the privacy of my own company, but in front of the dandelion-haired woman at the dry-cleaners. She was trying to hang my clothes in the back, but the back door was locked. After a few seconds of fruitless searching, I gave up and opened my own door. “Just hand them here,” I said.

While I eventually found the door lock button, I didn’t figure out how to use it until this morning. This is what continually happened: I’d push the lock button, I’d listen for the click, and then I’d try to open the locked door from the outside. Just to check. The car was always unlocked! Always! I used the fob and got the same results. There was some trick, I was sure. Push it twice. Hold it down for a count of three. Something.

Turns out the car had been unlocking for me automatically because the key had always been in the purse on my shoulder. I figured this out at work this morning by flinging my purse across the parking lot and then trying to get into my car. Couldn’t do it. Fetched the purse, put it back on my shoulder, and open sesame! (Thank you, Scientific Method!)

How the key unlocks the car from inside my purse is anyone’s guess. Bluetooth or lasers or mark of the beast. Whatever. I’m glad to have finally figured it out.
mark of the beast
(But look on the bright side, doomsdayers: no more digging for our keys!)

The Door of the Gas Tank

I went to fill up my gas tank the other night, and it hit me that I didn’t know if my tank was on the left or right side of the car. I pulled up to the pump without checking. Figured I had a 50/50 shot. I guessed wrong. I got back in the car, started the engine, circled around, parked, got out again, and wouldn’t you know the door to the gas tank opening was still outside-facing! I’m so stupid. I got back in the car. Again. I drove clear across to the other side, to the farthest pump, and against all reason, I still managed to do it wrong. In the end, I left without filling my tank. I decided to get gas elsewhere. There was no sense in making the same mistake four consecutive times in front of everyone. (My gas tank is on the right side of the car, by the way. At least I think it is…)

I know lots of people enjoy having the most updated technology at their disposal. I am not one of those people. Sure, I was happy to drive away from the Ford dealership in a new car, but the truth is that I will be happier, still, when the new-car smell has been replaced with a clear understanding of how to set my cruise control.


13 Comments on “Driving My New Car Up the Learning Curve

  1. So, what you’re saying is: if I see a brand new Ford Focus hatchback on the road being driven by a red-headed woman I should run like crazy in the opposite direction? What color car should I be on the lookout for?

  2. I was wondering about the red-headed comment…
    Steve and I EACH got out of our new hybrid, push start car without turning it off. Not until we had done it the second time did we realize that that was the reason the car wouldn’t let us lock it and wouldn’t turn off the lights. Sad, huh?

  3. My mom has the same issue “talking” to her car. She says it’s the southern accent that is throwing the car for a loop. J.

  4. In defense of what might sound like a derogatory comment, the “golf cart” reference was a size comparison to how not “too big for this parallel parking spot” it was.

    Also, there is an arrow next to the gas pump symbol on all cars that shows which side the gas tank is on. Learned that last year!

    • I use your quotes out of context for the purpose of telling a story the way I want to tell it, you know that, and I’ve no intention of stopping. It’s a blog, not testimony under oath.

  5. I went through the same thing when I got my Prius 2 years ago after not having a new car in 10 years! I love the push button start but it is really a pain now when I drive our other car and actually have to put the key in the ignition and turn it! What a pain!

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