Sunday, September 09, 2007

Where's the Cruise Control?

When I rent a car, I don't drive away until I know its basics. If I can't find the safety brake or the “brights” switch, I'll ask. But on a hot day, after dragging the car guy out to explain the user interface to me, and discovering that there seemed to be no cruise control, I quietly gave up and drove off.

But there HAD to be cruise control! There always is in a rented car, and this was a full-size fancy car, with its sixty icons. While driving, an idea occurred to me. One button had a really weird pictogram on it, a sort of half-compass with an arrow pointing into it. I had pressed that button when the car was parked at the rental place, and nothing happened. But you can't turn cruise control on when you're parked, you have to be driving over thirty or so. So I hit the button again, on a dark, rainy stretch of the PA Turnpike.

At once it was evident that I had turned cruise control on. This funny button was at the end of a separate stalk behind the steering wheel, on the left. (Excellent idea, most people have better control with their left hand than their right...). There was a three-position slider on this stalk, and it had three icons for its positions: a zero, a vertical bar, and a plus, like this: 0 | +
Now most cruise controls have about the same functionality, you just have to figure out how to turn them on and off, how to acellerate and slow down, and how to resume the previously selected speed. Thank goodness, because there was nothing obvious about this 3-way slider. I believe I figured out its three positions:
Totally Off; Don't care; accelerate/resume.

Now here's what's weird about all this: one of the truly natural things to do with a cruise control is to gradually adjust your speed, a little up, a little down. I would have liked to push that slider one way to accelerate, the other way to slow down. But NO! I pushed it to the right to accelerate, and I pushed the button at the end of the stalk, the one that turned on cruise control, to slow down.

Thanks for listening! I hated that cruise control; at least, I didn't have to keep all that misery to myself.

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