Just the Other Day: Tom vs. The Jeep

I will openly admit, I am not the most technically savvy person in the world. As a matter of fact, I might even describe myself as somewhat technically challenged. Even with this flaw, I can be quite well organized without the aid of modern devices. The other day was a good example.


I needed to go to Superior, Wisconsin, to have my truck’s transmission serviced, then on to Duluth, to run other errands. With a pen and a scrap of paper, (the back side of some solicitation that came in the mail) I made a list of everything I needed to do in town. Arranging my tasks according to my route, would avoid any back-tracking, making the most efficient use of my time. The list was compiled and I was on my way. Mighty proud of myself, I asked, “Who needs apps?”


The first stop was the Hammond Street Liquor Store, just barely in Wisconsin, on the south end of the High Bridge that spans the twin ports harbor. I wanted a case of New Glarus Moon Man; a delicious brew only available in Wisconsin. The next stop was Dan’s Feed Bin, to get a fifty-pound sack of sunflower seed for the birds. Dan’s is such a cool place; it’s an old-fashioned feed store. You go inside, place your order and pay at the counter, then take a small piece of paper out to the dock where hired hands will gather and load your order into your vehicle. Old fashioned service for sure!


A half-mile away, I dropped the truck off at Superior Dodge. They told me the work would take about an hour and a half. I planned to walk down a couple blocks further to the antique and thrift shops and use this time to find a unique table or stand, upon which I would set the new television I was going to buy – item four on the list. With temperatures in the single digits and a fair amount of wind, the walk was chilly. I zipped up my coat, pulled my hat on snuggly, put on my gloves and started walking.


About ninety minutes had passed and I didn’t find anything that suited me, so I walked back to the dealership. They told me my truck wasn’t ready yet and to have a seat in the customer waiting area. Another thirty minutes later, the service manager came to see me. He had an uneasy look on his face. “We ran into a little snafu on your truck.” he said. I smiled and repeated, “A snafu? That is not the news I wanted to hear, but I guess it’s better coming from you than to hear that from a surgeon.” We shared a good laugh, then he explained, “One of the bolts on your transmission pan broke off. The mechanic is trying to drill it out now, but it’s going to be a bit longer than we anticipated.” There were all kinds of things I could have said, but I knew getting upset wasn’t going to correct the problem any faster. I smiled and replied, “Good. It will give me time to catch up on my emails.”


I opened my iPad. The messages were hard to read. That’s when it occurred to me, I forgot to put my contacts in today! No problem, I increased the text size, and was able to read them just fine. When I finished my email, I started looking at Facebook to kill time. I wondered how much longer they would be with my truck? I had several more errands to run.


About an hour later, the service manager was heading my way again. I glanced at the clock; four p.m., the mechanics are ready to go home and I could tell by his expression, it wasn’t good news. He sat in the chair next to me; that’s never a good sign. “Here it comes.” I thought to myself, “Be cool. Stay calm.” He sighed and said, “He’s having trouble getting the broken bolt out. Your truck isn’t going to be done today.” Oh boy! Here we go!


I took a deep breath, then firmly told him, “I live 65 miles from here, and my wife is not going to be happy if I call her to come get me.” “No problem,” he said, “I’m going to fix you up with wheels to get home.” Immediately, I had visions of a rusty 1993 Dodge Intrepid with a bad muffler and windows that didn’t roll up all the way. I was quite surprised and pleased when he told me he was sending me home in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. He gave me the keys and asked, “Are you familiar with the keyless ignition?” I had a good idea how it worked, but the uncertain look on my face caused him to begin explaining.


“As long as the key fob is close to the car, like in your pocket, just press the brake pedal and push the start button and you’re set to go.” he said, “Okay.” I answered, trying to remember what he told me. “Also, you don’t have to use the keyless entry. As long as the fob is in your pocket, just put your hand on the driver’s door handle and it will unlock. Pull the handle twice and it will unlock all the doors.” I was trying to take this all in, when he handed me the fob, saying, “I think you’ll like this car; it’s right outside the back door.” “I’m sure it will be an experience.” I said, as I thanked him and walked toward the back.


As he said, just outside the door was a beautiful, dark grey, Jeep Grand Cherokee. “This can’t be a loaner car, it looks like new.” I said, while looking for the “unlock” button on the fob, to see if this Jeep would chirp. I remembered he said to just pull the handle and it would open, so I tried it, and the door opened. “Hmph,” I thought to myself, “I’ll bet somebody left this car unlocked.” I sat in the driver seat, pressed the brake pedal and pushed the start button. The motor fired right up. “Hot dang! This is it!” I said, while looking around admiring the beautiful interior. After fastening my seat belt and adjusting the mirrors, I was on my way to Duluth to look at televisions.


I noticed, leaving the dealership, both the leather seat and steering wheel were quite comfortable for such a cold day. It didn’t take me long to realize the seats and wheel were heated. Not far down Tower Avenue, they were becoming really heated. I looked, but could not find a button next to the seat to turn off the heaters. Not wearing my contacts was certainly not helping. My backside was now getting hot – uncomfortably hot.


I pulled into a gas station and stopped the car so I could focus and look more carefully. I still didn’t see any switches. I opened the door, almost knocking down a man that was passing between me and the car next to me. While I had his attention, I asked him, “Sir, would you happen to know how to turn off the heated seats in this car?” He laughed at me, then leaned inside, over me, to take a look. It was rather awkward; I tried to suck in my chest and pull back deeper into my seat to avoid touching him. Where the radio is in my car, this Jeep has a big screen with all sorts of stuff on it, but without my contacts, I couldn’t tell what any of that stuff was! The man quickly gave up. “I have no idea. This is a lot fancier than my ’06 Chevy pickup. Maybe you should have asked your salesman before you bought a car you couldn’t figure out.” Not appreciating his attitude, nor wishing to explain, I just smiled and said, “Thank you for looking.”


I stood up and looked around, not knowing what I was going to do. I noticed the car parked next to me was also a Jeep Grand Cherokee and about the same model year. A young man, probably in his late twenties, was walking toward the other Jeep. “Excuse me, sir…” I said, then after briefly explaining my situation, I asked, “Would you happen to know how to turn off the heated seats?” He chuckled, walked over my way, leaned into the car for just a second, pressed a button or something, then came out and said, “There you go. They’re off.” I thanked him, got back in the driver’s seat, and headed to Best Buy in Duluth – quite comfortably too, I might add.


When I got to Best Buy, I was immediately confused by the number of TV’s available. We bought our last TV new, more than ten years ago, and man, have they changed since then. I guess they’re calling them “Smart TV’s” now, which worried me because I was just starting to figure out the remote control on the old one, and now this new one is “smart?” Lord help me! Fortunately, I found myself dealing with a very knowledgeable and patient salesman. He helped me find the unit that suited my needs and demonstrated how user-friendly the remote control was. He made the purchase process quite easy.


After loading the new television into the Jeep, I made a couple of real quick stops at stores that were nearby, then started for home. I was starting to worry if this new car was going to make it all the way home. Every time I pulled up to red light and stopped, the engine died. But the weirdest thing, when I took my foot off the brake, the engine restarted again, by itself. I swear, I was hearing that creepy music from Jaws that alerts you something really bad was about to happen. I was committed to getting home at this point, and said a little prayer: “Dear Lord, please help this clunker get me home safely!”


About fifteen minutes into the trip home my tushy was hotter than a Texas asphalt driveway in August. I don’t know what that guy did to turn off the heated seats, but I apparently did something to turn them back on! Wowsers! I was still over an hour from home and too embarrassed to stop and ask for help again. I decided to just tough it out and keep going. To make the situation a bit more tolerable, I drove down the highway in six-degree weather with the windows open.


It wasn’t long before I bumped something on the steering wheel and the car started talking to me. “There are no phones currently connected.” said the Jeep. “Of course, there are no phones connected,” I responded, “I didn’t connect any. Did you?” The Jeep didn’t answer my question, but instead gave me more directions. “Please say a command. You can say the number that you would like me to call starting with the area code; for example, say, ‘call, 800-555-1212’” I was confused. “I don’t want to call anyone.” I insisted. The Jeep kept talking, “Or, you could say, ‘Call John Smith, or Call John Smith at home.” “Who the heck is John Smith?” I questioned. The Jeep asked, “Would you like me to call John Smith.” “No!” I hollered, I don’t know John Smith and I certainly don’t want to call him!”


Apparently, I wasn’t the only one confused, the Jeep said, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Would you like to make a call?” Argh! “No, I don’t want to make a call,” I was frustrated, “I want you to be quiet!” Between the car that would not stop talking, the wind rushing in the windows and my bum being near a temperature that could result in spontaneous combustion at any moment, I was nearing my wit’s end. Then the Jeep said something to the effect, “If this is an emergency, say ‘call 911’ and I can get help on the way.” I immediately shut up.


Fearing any use of the numbers 9-1-1, or any response at all might cause the Jeep to have authorities dispatched my way, I kept quiet. No police officer would believe I owned, or even had permission to drive this vehicle, which I couldn’t figure out. I would go to jail sure as anything for stealing a car. I bit my lip and started pushing buttons on the steering wheel like a mad man. If accidentally touching something on the wheel is what started this insane conversation, certainly I could inadvertently hit a button to stop it as well.  While pushing various buttons, I silently prayed, “Dear Lord help me.” Well, as usual, God heard and answered my plea. He sent me a messenger.


All of the sudden, a preacher’s voice came blaring through the radio. He was hollering and shouting about hell and damnation; fire and brimstone; talking about the bad things men do on earth, then began reciting the ten commandments. I swear he got louder when he declared, “Thou shalt not steal.” I began weeping and cried for mercy, “I swear I didn’t steal it! The man told me I could drive this car home.”


The preacher was talking about demons and evil spirits. I began recalling how the car would shut itself off and started again on its own, and I started thinking, this vehicle is possessed! “We may need an exorcism here, Pastor!” I said. The preacher kept preaching about the fires of hell. The seat kept heating up, my hands were getting hotter and sweating on the steering wheel and I, frankly, was getting concerned! I started digging in my pockets and looking for a basket to make a sizeable contribution. I pushed more buttons, but never could get him to stop, so I heard him out the rest of the way home.


When I finally turned on the road to my house, I rolled the windows up, lest my neighbors should hear this commotion and all come running over for the 9 pm revival meeting. In the driveway, I pushed the button to stop the engine, but the preacher kept going. “Enough!” I said to the radio, “If you haven’t got me saved by now, you’re not going to!” As soon as I opened the door, he quit talking. Whew.


Though the car and the minister stopped running, the headlights stayed on, for which I was grateful, as they lighted my path to carry in the new TV. From the house, I looked out the window and waited until the lights on the Jeep shut off. I chuckled to myself, thinking, I never even turned those silly lights on – they came on, on their own. I was happy about that, too, because I am sure I never would have figured out how to turn them on.


I went to the bathroom sink where I put in my contacts. Ah, that’s much better, I said to myself as I pulled from my shirt pocket, my list for the day and reviewed it. “Beer? Check. Birdseed? Got it. Truck to the shop? It’s still there. TV stand? Another day. New TV? Done. New socks? Got a six-pack. Dog food? June is happy.”


Maybe I’m not very tech savvy, Perhaps I am a bit technically challenged, but I smiled as I looked at my old-fashioned paper list. “Ha! This is all the technology I need.”


I started a new list for the next time I have to go into town. The first thing on the list is, “Put in your contacts!” The second item was “Go get your truck back.”


Tom can be reached for comment at Facebook.com/tompalen.98