Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Learning curve steep when you buy a new car

My new Cruze waiting for me to drive away on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011.

I remember the first new car I ever sat in.

It must have been 1968, and my father had acquired a 1969 Plymouth Satellite. I think my brother Patrick and I were sick, and it was the Christmas season, and we were told that we could go down into the garage and see the new vehicle.

The house on 80th Street in Elmhurst had a garage, I recall so well. It was behind a heavy door in the basement, and for most of our lives there it was for storage. But my father got the car into the garage, and I crawled into the front seat and smelled that new smell for the first time. Everything about the car was so unique and different.

That’s the thing about a new car, and driving it home after you’ve signed the papers and left the dealership is almost like being high. When I finally made the decision on Saturday, Aug. 6, to trade in my Ford Mustang and buy a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, it wasn’t just in pursuit of that feeling but to use less gas. Still, there’s an aspect of “new toy”-ism when you get a new car.

I spent a goodly amount of time with the salesman in the passenger seat as he taught me the rudiments of using OnStar and the other electronic goodies. Long gone are the days of “here’s the radio, the on/off button, the volume, the band, the tuning control.” In addition to AM and FM, those old standbys, there’s XM satellite radio and zillions of stations; there’s a way to make it work with your cellphone via Bluetooth; and on and on.

I am the kind of guy who likes one-on-one instruction, but for a lesson to really stick, I need time with the manual. And the worst time to learn how to use something like a car’s systems is when you’re in motion on the road.

I guess we asked for more complexity in our cars, and I know that in a few days I’ll have everything down absolutely pat, but right now it’s all so new.

After work, I realized that the dome light was mis-set, and wouldn’t come on when I opened the doors. A check of the manual revealed what buttons needed to be pushed. I realized the instrument panel lights were too bright. A check of the manual revealed what needed to be done.

How do I get the station I want in XM? How do I set my favorite FM stations? It’s all in the manual, and I just have to learn it all.

My late, great cousin Angelo didn’t really get into all these complicated and new-fangled things.

He was a very smart and knowledgeable man, but he’d see all these “Driver Information Centers” and 20-button radio consoles as a lot of overkill. Why go through all those steps and read all these pages just to listen to the radio? he’d ask. His wisdom was always unassailable.

I can imagine myself saying to him, “Check this out, Angelo, you can push a button on the rear-view mirror and an operator will tell you where you are.”

He’d say, “Just pay attention to where you’re going, and you’ll never be lost, Vincent.”

I wish Angelo was still around to see my new Cruze, with its six-speed manual transmission, endless variety of toys to play with and amazing interior. I’d like to think he’d be impressed by it all, but I know that he was a man who knew that it all boils down to a few buttons that make it all happen.

Still, I like the new wheels.

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August 7, 2011 - Posted by | Living in the modern age | , , , , , , , , ,

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