Skip to main content

The key to success?

No one can be in total control of their lives. External events intrude. Other entities make their own attempts to control the environment around them.

The lady who lives somewhere under the bonnet of my Honda Civic is one such external director. She has stopped trying to bully me about the seat belt in my car. But only because I am now conforming to her requirements.

Driving from the front door to our previously shut gate, without wearing my seat belt, would lead to a refusal to acknowledge pressure on the throttle by moving off stand. And upon return, exiting the car to open the gate would lead to a warning that the door was open while the engine was running.

It didn't get any better when I resumed my seat and attempted to drive onto our policies. An oral request from my vehicular boss would demand that I release the parking brake. It's an electronic brake that releases itself when you press the throttle. But only if you are wearing your seat belt.

The car-boss also gets a bit grumpy when I place items on the back seat. So they now mostly go in the boot. She imagines that they may be unbelted passengers.

This week she asked that I book her in for a service. Must have heard that I had had a minor service to my upper storey (vide yesterday's diary) and thought she should be sharing the action.

Don't know why she didn't just phone the garage herself and make the booking. After all, she does lots of other things on the phone for us. The spoken instruction "Phone Call Sandra" will connect me to my human boss, provided that my car-boss thinks there is a radio mast nearby.

If a pal sends me a text message, it is read out while I drive, and should I make a spoken response it will transmit that back to the sender. So no swearing at a message. It might swiftly go elsewhere.

This is all very different from the small cars father used to have for driving around his medical practice on domiciliary visits. He basically used to change it every year after it had done about 40,000 miles.

He wasn't greatly concerned about cars. He would alternate between the two main garages in town. I don't have that same choice as Ewens of Cornhill is just over two miles away. And keeps winning the UK Honda Dealer of the Year Award. No one's closer. No one's better.

He came unstuck with his cars on several occasions.

It used to be that one unlocked the door and operated the ignition with one quite simple key. There were less than a thousand variants. On the second day of owning a new car, I think it was an Austin A35, he came out of a patient's home, unlocked the door and drove off. Only upon reaching his next stop and looking around for his black bag, which had not been needed at the previous visit, did he wonder why it wasn't on the back seat.

The owner of another A35 was a bit grumpy as his car seemed to have disappeared. That other driver was a bit more alert than father and knew that the A35 sitting next to where his had been was not his. Wrong colour.

But his car had the same key. Father's indifference to his cars had not led to his registering the colour of his new car. Quickly sorted out. And without much Police involvement.

Another incident occurred on father's first driving of a newly collected Austin A40. The garage had wanted, as they always do, to talk him through the controls on his new car before taking it away. Urgency triumphed over sense. He insisted that he needed to depart at once to be at the local cottage hospital.

Upon leaving that place of sickness, he remounted his new car. Settled into the driver's seat, switched on the ignition and spent a fruitless few minutes searching for a means to start the engine. In those days the standard was to pull a knob on the fascia which was connected by wire to the engine's starter motor. But not in an A40. Defeated.

The necessary phone call to the garage revealed that there was a button on the floor next to the hand brake. Press that and, heh bingo!, locomotion may proceed.

My modern car could not be more different. It reads speed limit signs and can use that information to assign a maximum speed to the automated cruise control system.

It has an LKAS (Lane Keeping Assistance System) that will actually steer the car around corners at sixty miles per hour. Mind you it gets grumpy and refuses to operate if it doesn't detect at least some manual input via the steering wheel from time to time.

It detects the presence of vehicles ahead and slows down, even to a stop if necessary, and then meekly plays follow my leader when that car moves off again.

The lights and wiper operate as required without driver intervention. Even operating the rear wiper if needed when I am backing into a parking space.

It will shortly be thirty years since Pop took up that seat next to Gabriel, and he would be astonished at today's cars. And probably rather wary.

His two sons, I being one, shared quite a bit. Brother was born on my third birthday so that was one celebratory family expense avoided.

Professionally we followed the same path. At one point when I was Chief Programmer at Bank of Scotland, he was Chief Programmer at the Royal Bank of Scotland.

This did nothing to increase our male parent's trust in technology. One of my sibling's programming projects was the code that controlled the Royal Bank's IBM 3614, and then 3624, online cash dispensers.

Pa had been a National Bank customer who, through successive takeovers, had ended up banking with the Royal. He acquired a cash dispenser card not long after my brother's early ATMs went live in 1977.

In the next thirteen years of his life, he made use of this but once. And then only to check the balance of his current account.

The counter in the local branch is where he prefered to access his cash.

He nonetheless regularly displayed his ATM card and spoke proudly of his son's computer skills. My brother's that is. But use it? No.

Today, we are probably on the brink of a cashless society.

My car is now booked in for the service it requested. The backlog of work is such that that is a month ahead.

Since it seems that I actually own a relatively expensive computer which is sitting out there in the rain, the wheels and engine seem to be a minor part of the beast; I wonder if the programming check-up will take more effort than replacing the oil and filters.

I don't think my brother had anything to do with it.

But somebody's sister or brother did.

I think I shall keep watching the behaviour of my computer-on-wheels with very great care. But let it do most of the work.

I shall be settling my garage bill by computer.

Bug on.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Advice to the new MSPs

A contribution made to Portland PR 's weekly briefing on Holyrood A new job is a time to look in the mirror and undertake a self-assessment about what one can contribute in a new role. And what weaknesses one may have that could inhibit success. Being elected an MSP is no different in that respect. But very different in many others. One has become public property and every action, or action thought to be by you, will be open to public comment, often unfairly. Silence is often your best response. When one comments on criticism one lengthens the “war” and widens the knowledge of it. Set your own agenda rather than respond to that of others. Who can you trust among your fellow Parliamentarians? Make contact with as many as you can as quickly as you can. And make it a priority to interact with political opponents. The first substantive decision in the new Parliament is the election of a new Presiding Officer and it will be a secret ballot. Understanding the dynamic of other partie

End of an Era 2016-2021

Written for  Holyrood magazine's "The End of an era 2016-2021"  published 07 April 2021.    Neil Findlay is the man who loves you to hate him. As he rises from his habitual place in a distant corner of the Parliamentary Chamber, a snarl as firmly attached to his face as he is disconnected to any symbol of middle-class values such as a tie, tension flows as he selects his target for the day. Is it dapper John Scott? The record-holder for the shortest time between his being sworn in and making his first speech in Parliament; a mere twenty hours. Does Willie Rennie attract his ire? Confession; we went to the same school. Almost anything liberal is bound to attract this Labour very-back-bencher’s contumely. Greens rarely attract his attention but he should remember that John Finnie, another member of this year’s escape committee, can efficiently direct a canine arrest. Now of course, I have sought to avoid any engagement with the fellow. I never, just never, even acknow

Clutter

When big things go wrong, and one feels powerless to do much about them, small things in one's life can become surrogates for one's anger. And there are quite a few big things around at the moment; COVID-19, No-Deal Brexit; A US Presidential Election where the incumbent leads with racist statements. As the end of the current session rushes towards us, many of my colleagues are concluding that they will not be putting themselves forward at the forthcoming election. A couple of our younger colleagues are placing their families first. But most are looking at being in their eighth decade, as I already am, at the end of the next session. When the two leading candidates for the US President are both older than I am - seventy-four in five week's time - it may seem surprising that retirement may be beckoning for me and others a lustrum younger than I am. But it illustrates the profound differences between being a back-bencher in our Parliament and the political life of a US Senator