Thursday, July 28, 2005

Get in the car...the movie's about to start!

I've been watching the space shuttle rotate the earth and listening to excited CNN anchors marvel at the technology aboard including the robotic camera arm that takes photos while the crew sleeps. I flip the TV off and yawn.

"Big deal," I think. "This thing has nothing on the Navi."

"The Navi" is our pet name for our new Lincoln Navigator. I purchased this behemoth, gas guzzling tank of a vehicle for my wife's 40th birthday. Because she is my wife, she insisted it come with every single extra that Lincoln had created so far. My wife looks at an accessory and then tries her best to concoct a hypothetical situation that would require having it aboard. Greg, I really think we need the machine gun turrets inside the rear bumper. What if we're on a date and we recognize Al Qaeda terrorists in the rear view mirror? Huh? What then?

The most pricey feature was the on board navigational system. That wasn't a tough sell because my wife's sense of direction is about as good as the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. That way is a very nice way too. Of course some people do go both ways. Now, if she even feels lost, the screen on her dashboard shows her current location and can provide her with step by step directions to reach her destination. Inside the screen is, I'm convinced, the world's smartest woman. Yes, the voice is female and for good reason. If it were a man's voice, it would consistently say, "I know a shortcut."

Instead, "she" very calmly instructs my wife to "turn left at the next street, "proceed north approximately two miles" or "make a legal U-turn at the next intersection." That's her way of telling my wife she messed up. Again, a guy would not be so polite. He'd say something like, "women drivers are so stupid."

The navigation system is cool. It's the DVD player that bugs me. These days if you are looking for a family car, a DVD player is no longer an option. It's standard equipment, much like the steering wheel. My two kids sit behind us, in bucket seats that are more comfortable than a chiropractic massage chair, and, with the press of a button (either on their own personal dashboard OR by using a remote) a screen unfurls from the ceiling. Every time I hear the whirring sound, signaling that the movie theatre is open for business while we're traveling 70 down the highway, my mind drifts back to our family vacations in the 1970s when Dad piloted the station wagon to some obscure destination. For "entertainment," my sister and I drew the obligatory line in the backseat and then constantly bitched that the other person had crossed it. When we were in better moods, we spent hours looking for out of state license plates or trying to find find every letter of the alphabet on billboards. As I remember, 'q' was the toughest. Usually, we had to wait until Dad passed a liquor store.

Kids today would be oblivious if you passed Moses parting the Red Sea. That's because their heads are covered in earphones and their gaze is fixated on a screen which is no doubt showing a movie they've already seen at least 10 times. Recently, while driving at night, we pulled behind a car with two screens embedded in the seats. Worse, the screens were showing two different movies. Bravo to the car companies, I thought. You've just taught children that it's not necessary to communicate OR share.

My wife and I hate the DVD player. If we'd had a choice, we would have nixed it. But, as I said, it's standard equipment on the Navigator. So we've instituted the "90-minute" rule. No DVDs unless the car ride exceeds 90 minutes. If we're running out to Target for supplies, are kids will be forced to (INSERT GASP HERE) talk to us! What a concept. An actual conversation between two parents and their two children.

Oh, and of course one smart woman who occasionally interrupts to say, "turn left here."

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