Thursday, July 15, 2010

Electronic Wisdom

Driving across the Howard Frankland Bridge (translation for northerners: big bridge connecting Tampa to the civilized world to the west) this afternoon, my beloved M3 began talking to me. "Hey!  You're losing air in one of your tires."  The damn red light refused to go out.

"Crap," I thought.  I once had a full-on blow-out right there on that same Frankland Bridge, and it was not pretty.  You see, BMW, in its wisdom, decided that cars of this magnificence have no real need for spare tires, so they didn't put one in.  No doughnut, no nothing.  The low-profile tires are not run-flats but, in fact, they run pretty well flat. They ought to for $370+ a pop.  I apparently drove some distance before I decided that something felt a little out of whack back there.

Instead of a spare, BMW gives you a phone number and an instruction: "If you get a flat tire while you own this car, give us a call." Not-very-optimistically - the car is 7 years old - I called the number and - well, I be go-to-hell if they didn't show up lickety-split and flatbed me to the nearest BMW dealer, which proceeded to rake me over the financial coals something wicked.

Anyway, with that history in mind, I promptly pulled over this morning when the flashing light started whining about low air pressssure yet again.  I walked around the car.  I kicked the rubber while very large trucks whumped past.  Everything looked copacetic, so I climbed back in and continued to Tampa, warning light still flashing just out of my line of sight.  "Can you hear me NOW?  How about NOW?"

I'll get back to this later.  This article is really about the interface between driving a car and electronic messaging.  Not the txting-while-driving stuff we've heard too much about, but the mundane electronic whispers that dog you wherever you travel, generally misinforming you about the state of the universe.

Here's one now: Florida has erected electronic billboards all over the place flashing this urgent message:
Bearss Avenue 2 Miles
Travel Time under 5 minutes
This particular sign appears on I-275, Tampa Bay's preeminent vehicular artery. It's a big sign, very high-tech, very goddamn expensive.  So it must be accurate.  My ass.  These ubiquitous signs invariably report that traffic is crawling when, in fact, it's blasting through at something north of 75 mph.  All right, 85.  It's an M3 - that's why I bought it.  Get over it.

Anyway, that's what I saw this morning - this was after the tire pressure monitor light incident -  a sunny day, no traffic, and I and everyone around me happily abusing the speed laws of the great State of Florida.  The freakin' sign said I would be lucky to average 24 mph.  (2 miles in 5 minutes is 24 mph, for the arithmetic-impaired).

In fact, no matter how freely- or fast-moving the traffic, these signs never tell you that traffic is moving more than 60 mph. Somebody paid a fortune for these signs - oh, wait! that was me - and their only function is to report that everything you see on the road around you is false.  I'm not sure this matters.  I'm just sayin'.

And another thing.  I have this swell GPS stuck to my dashboard, and I use it whether I need it or not.  (You do that - admit it.)  So, driving out of downtown Tampa this afternoon - this is after the tire pressure monitor nonsense - I punched in "Go Home."  Trouble is, I sort of know how to go home from downtown:  find I-275 and get on it.  Drive 20 miles south (it's really west); bingo - you're home.  But today the road signs to I-275 and the GPS on my dash came to blows.  And me, instead of following one or the other, I just did whatever I was told at each intersection.  Sign says go left to I-275, I turn left.  GPS says turn right in point-five miles, I turn right.

Another road sign:  uh-oh.  Now it  looks like I-275 is behind me. "Recalculating..."  And so on.  Folks, I am not the sort of guy who challenges authority.  Embarrassing but true.  I drove in circles for an - - um - - for far too long, obeying authority.  Nice town, Tampa.

I'm better now, thanks.

So the denouement is this - the tire was fine.  No nail, no leak, no nothing.  The TPM light was lying to me all along.  Just like the traffic signs on I-275.  I am disillusioned.  Again.



  1. How long has it been since you were illusioned?

  2. I was recently illusioned, but lost it. As a result, I became disgruntled. Now I am striving to be reillusioned and regruntled.