all of the selves we Have ever been
Axle of Evil
It’s that time of the year.
The temperature goes up and down giving us four seasons in a single day: cool fall mornings followed by spring-like afternoons, the heat of the summer sun in the evenings turning into early and frigid winter nights.
All of this temperature fluctuation causes an orange light to glow like a Halloween jack-o-lantern on the dashboard of my car. I admit it. It spooks me.
Each time I see the light, I do a slow burn. Like a candle melting down into a pumpkin head, I wither with despair. Sweating it out in this ring of hell, I have a fleeting moment of understanding. Perhaps this is the thing that put the anti-maskers and the anti-vaxxers over the edge, making them militant against any new safety mandates. Yes, the anti-safety movement may have begun with the TPMS light.
Against my will, I was dragged into the Trial Purgatory Membership Service. Don’t let the word “trial” confuse you. It does not mean a brief introductory period. It means ordeal, the actual ordeal of purgatory. You get to work off your sins and reduce the waiting time at the pearly gates while you go about life on earth. The program is open to any licensed driver who purchased a vehicle manufactured after 2007.
I did not understand this when I bought my 2009 Hyundai Elantra. I inadvertently signed up for the TPM Service. It was automatic with purchase. Some might call it a perk; I call it hell on wheels. The program is relentless and has turned my car into a time share. I spend the start of every outing searching for “free” air which is getting harder to find. I am more obsessed with my PSI than I am with my blood pressure which rises a little higher every time I see the light.
The TPM Service is not just in charge of the tires, it has become like a parole officer setting limits on my freedom. At this time of the year, the light comes on so frequently that I try not to drive. I suspect the TPMS is a real boon to Uber, Lyft, and restaurant delivery services. The rise in agoraphobia among licensed drivers may have more to do with the TPMS than with the global pandemic and lockdowns.
I am traumatized each time I start the engine and see the light glowing from behind the steering wheel. In the rare instances when I am forced to take to the road, I survey each tire before opening the car door. I say a prayer that I can sneak in the door and start the engine, without the light coming on. But with its ability to measure air loss within a single molecule of change, the TPMS usually outsmarts me. I dread the day the air pump manufacturers catch on and begin to charge us for air by the molecule.
With the TPMS light on, I drive the side streets reassuring myself that the both I and the car will be safe until I get to an air pump. It is when the light comes on while driving down the interstate that panic sets in. I have discovered that if there is radar in the area, the TPMS light may come on without any real relationship to the air pressure in the car’s tires. Apparently, in purgatory, police cruisers and truckers are allowed to torment you too.
A friend suggested tape. “Just cover the warning light,” she said, but that measure only makes me feel worse. My mind can’t rest. It’s like coming home alone and thinking that a serial killer is hiding behind the shower curtain. This forces me to gamble with my life. All I can think about is what’s behind the tape. Is the light on? Is it off? I become a distracted driver, and I don’t even own a smart phone. I have a smart aleck for a car.
I will tell you from experience--don’t bother trying to call the Trial Purgatory Membership Service. All of its representatives are busy. All of the time. I have since learned that the company rocketed to billionaire status and fame with an earlier invention: the phone menu. Right now the entire customer service staff is on the company’s space station growing weed and working up an appetite for their next sneaky venture. Who knew the evil that could lurk in the hearts of men with technology?
Unfortunately, we consumers are left spinning our wheels. Getting out of the Trial Purgatory Membership Service will take an act of Congress, and, well, they aren’t getting much work done. I am beginning to suspect that they are all on the TPMS Board of Directors.
Vehicular Neurosis, Part I
I just read a book about emotional health.
In one of the chapters it was reported that emotional health at age 16 is a good predictor of life satisfaction. Well, that explains a lot!
Was anyone else trying to learn to drive at age 16?
I was a reluctant student driver to begin with, but it became a necessity in our household. My mom was a single, working mother before there were child care centers and supportive services. We needed a second driver in the house, and my older sister was away at college. Decision made.
Mom tried. She took me out on the road in our old Ford station wagon. That was back in the days when a sedan was as long as a train car and a station wagon even longer. We set out on the suburban streets surrounding our home, mom gripping the dashboard screaming, “Jesus, God! Jesus, God!” Sometimes she got the entire holy family involved, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” All the while her foot was slamming down on the brake pedal that didn’t really exist on the passenger side of the car.
I signed up for the in-class driver’s education program at my high school. It was a relief to just listen about driving though there were a couple of scary films--one about what happens when you don’t obey railroad crossing signals and another about driving intoxicated on prom night…enough imagery for a lifetime of bad dreams.
My mom agreed to pay for a few lessons from my quiet, gentle classroom instructor. The first time my teacher picked me up at home, my mother proceeded to give him a very long list of instructions that included the places I could and could not drive. By the time we got into the instructor’s car, he was chain smoking and ordered me to head for the top location on my mother’s “do not drive” list.
Finally, the day came for my driving test. We are talking about a frigid December day in the hilly terrain of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. December in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My mother and I arrived at the testing station. An officer came to get me when it was my turn. That was back in the day when a police officer commanded not just casual respect, but reverence. We bowed our heads and said, “Yes, Officer,” while handing over the documents. But then there was an “Oops!” The car registration was expired! Thankfully, mom was cool and so was the officer. He gave my mom a verbal warning, and he and I got into the car. I can’t say that I was rattled. That would imply movement. I was nearly paralyzed by that time.
Miraculously, I passed. That was probably due to the many times my mom had invoked the names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
I can’t say age 16 was the best year to be measuring my emotional health. Thankfully, my state of mind did not project longevity. I don’t think I would have made it to my high school graduation.