Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Tess Lynch

Tess Lynch is a writer and actor living in Los Angeles

April 14th, 2010 11:00 PM

I Have Two Points to Make Here

I have two points to make here. The first is that driving is terrifying. The second is that if I were Toyota, I would have two black eyes from punching myself in the face this week.

I'll elaborate.

I am a cautious driver. This is not because I am polite, but because I am afraid; I know how I was driving when I first got my license after a couple of tries, and I assume everyone else on the road is driving that way. They are texting. They are eating a #2 meal from McDonald's. Once I saw a woman doing the crossword puzzle on the Cahuenga pass, where the speed limit is like 50 MPH. People eat complicated tacos off their laps while driving with their knees and putting on mascara with their hands. Once you get away with this kind of bullshit, you're thinking (I assume), "Hey, now driving can be a good time to catch up on all that stuff I like to do! I was wasting all this time before just concentrating on the other dozens of cars darting around and braking suddenly, but now I'm finishing this John Banville novel! How completely efficient and not at all dangerous of me!"

That's not even it, though. It's not always within your control. There is no guarantee that being a good driver protects you from accidents. In fact, it almost seems like most accidents are random; it just depends on which split-second you decide to sneeze or try to make the light. Do you ever, when you're driving, have one of those moments where you see yourself driving from outside of your own body and you just wish you could incorporate whatever part of you is watching yourself back into your brain so you could be completely focused on driving? Do you ever pull over and take a deep breath and think, "There is no reason why people should be allowed to drive big metal boats that could explode?" Five minutes later you're fine and you've lowered your seat and adjusted your mirror and realized that may have been the whole problem. But the fear is real, and worse, it's justified.

Did I mention that once I rode cross country? I did not drive at all. You would have hated to take this trip with me. I ate my #2 McDonald's meal and would not give the driver any fries. "Hands on the wheel," I said, dangling a pickle slice over my gaping maw. "Wow these fries are fresh."

But what's worse than the general fear of driving is when you realize that your car might not be completely reliable; after all, most newer cars operate via computer, and some glitches mystify mechanics (i.e. the "check engine" light that won't go off, why your halogen headlights fail even when the bulbs are good, why a freaking accelerator pedal would be immune to brake override). Just drive a Toyota if you want a generous dash of uncertainty; I do. I love my Camry very much, but I'm also afraid of it, like a man you marry and then realize has a dark past. I traded in my VW for my Camry and just about ten seconds later heard about the "sticky brake pedal issue." My reaction, because I need to continue to drive without fear-barfing on Franklin, was something along the lines of "Be ready to yank the brake pedal up with your claws as soon as this baby gains speed." You use this lexicon when you're needing a little reassurance about your own abilities. You need to picture telling someone over a glass of wine, "Sure, the car took off, man. But luckily I had my wits about me and I just used these badass biceps to pry up that accelerator. I guess those other drivers weren't as clever and strong as I am, poor jerks. Let's drink to the weak, the accidental Thelma and Louises! No, it's not funny. No, I know. It's not funny." That's the trick with cars: you have to trick yourself a little bit and be unrealistically casual, because otherwise, you'd take the subway and, unfortunately, if you live in LA, there is no subway.

So of course there's the brake thing, which by the way Toyota was warned about and decided to ignore/hide, and which has cost them $4.4 billion. What would you do if you ran a company and this happened to you? You don't say, "Back off dude, you should be so lucky to drive a zoomy vehicle. Ditch your floor mats and can it." Why? Because whether the defect is your fault or a lot of eerily coincidental human error, there is no denying that the problem is Toyota's to fix or exacerbate. I guess I was under the impression that Toyota was secretly taking to heart the message of the recall and overseeing their production as Santa might his elves, carefully and with some kind of super-human insight, adhering to the strictest of standards, golden-hearted and moral.

And then I saw, on the LA Times yesterday, an article about a Consumer Reports rating for the Lexus GX. The rating was "Don't Buy: Safety Risk." They save this rating for things like tin cans on wheels made of aluminum foil and cars which house raccoons in their transmissions. I am pretty sure that a Radio Flyer with a recycled transmission taped to the bottom would at least get one star. And it wasn't even the brakes this time. It was the toppling-over issue. THE TOPPLING OVER ISSUE. You know what happens to cars when they roll over? Why don't you ask Tony Soprano and Christopher Moltisanti. How can it be that Consumer Reports, an organization that I would think doesn't have super-secret knowledge of how to expose car flaws but rather just sort of does the same standard tests on everything, could catch an issue like a car being prone to hand-stands when Toyota, a car manufacturer facing billions of dollars of loss due to an oversight, could miss it? Didn't that cross their minds? I barely know long division but I'm pretty sure that I would have thought, "I would like to not cause anyone to die, ever again, with these metal beasts I make." Or I would have had the integrity to at least burn all the Lexus GX's in big piles that spelled out I'M SORRY EVERY1 instead of hawking the death traps, the suicide raps.

A Stanford professor named Clifford Nass looked into the evolution of car-driver communications a few years ago, and came up with the concept of a human-voiced GPS system that would gather information about you (where you go, what you listen to, even how you drive) to deliver to advertisers and insurance agencies. He also posited that this new GPS might help you be a better driver. He explained that:

That computer masquerading as a person, seemingly residing somewhere in your car, might be interested in more than mere facts. As it gets to know your voice, your facial expressions (from an onboard camera) and your style, it could adapt its conversation to your mood, just as a human passenger would. If the computer behind the synthetic voice sensed that you were tense, as the car's sensors were silently warning the computer that your driving was becoming erratic, the voice might attempt to calm you down. It would project just the right tone and employ the perfect turn of phrase.

If we can't trust car manufacturers to keep us safe, at least we could hope that our cars would get in on the game: create a false sense of security, earn our trust as would a human being who appeared to understand complex problems like fear and anxiety and obnoxious weaving bicyclists, and to tell us that we'll be okay, even as we see smoke rising from the hood and realize it's time to flex our formidable muscles and unstick the brake pedal. "In a quarter of a mile, left turn on Cahuenga. Don't worry. You will survive the crash."

Tags:

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

If you have a moment today, I hope you can read the obituary for my father Francis (Frank) Moore, who died this past Saturday at the age of 92: Francis...

Apr 22nd
6:33 PM
Read More

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles