A few years ago, my mother decided it was time for her to move from her home of 30 years to a less independent living situation. She picked the spot, and we moved her in. It was February, and my first experience with a Maine winter. It was the winter before I moved to Maine so I while I was here helping her get settled in I was actually staying with her in her new “independent living” apartment, and had rented a micro-sub-mini-compact-no-frills-crap-box cheap cheap cheap rental car hardly more than a bicycle, in order to get around during my stay.

Back in those days I was still a smoker. And very happy in my smoking. Loved each and every cigarette individually and specially.

As we unloaded my mother’s belongings and furniture, I find out that there is no smoking anywhere on the grounds of this new “senior paradise.” The nearest “legal lightup” would be over a mile away.

Well, the long evenings there got longer, and as an insomniac, longer still. It was around 10º outside, and nowhere to smoke. I got to getting into the rental not-a-mobile and driving around the block continuously while smoking. 

This got old, and although gas was not at the price levels it is now, and this car probably got ridiculously good mileage, it is very un-kind to the environment to pollute it with exhaust just to then pollute the air with cigarette smoke. This just seemed wrong, and no matter how cheap the gas, that too was adding up. Also, this is a small town, and I was pretty sure the police were already on their way to check out a mysterious smoke belching continuously circling car, after all, this was the middle of the night. I was the only car on the road.

I then figured, really, it is after midnight, everyone here is over a certain age and are all asleep by now, what would it hurt if I sat in the car in the parking lot with the windows closed (ugh) and had a smoke? It’s dark out, no one will see. Even if they see the cigarette end glowing in the dark, (unlikely from above while I’m in the car below) they won’t be able to see my face, and won’t be able to identify the perpetrator in a line-up during the – no doubt –  ensuing congressional investigation, were I caught.

All well and good except for one little flaw in the plan.

The car.

This vehicle barely had wheels and an engine, and also by the way, had no ashtray, and yet it apparently had a computer on board that decides how certain features behave. 

What am I talking about? It turns out that there is no way to sit inside the vehicle with the engine off without the interior light being on. 

I tried every possible sequence combination of the following activities: turning the engine on, turning it off, turning the lights on, turning them off, latching and unlatching my seatbelt, sitting in the passenger seat, even popping the hood. The only way to get the interior light to go off was to start the engine, release the handbrake and put the car in gear, or conversely, shut the whole thing down, get out, lock the door and walk away. No other options, period. I really hate it when machines think they know better than I what is good for me.

Can any of you explain to me a car that costs $12.95 to BUY, that has no electric anything (manual windows, door locks, seats, mirrors, practically even manual windshield wipers), somehow has an onboard computer with seat sensors that know when you are about to light up? 

I’ve petitioned congress to drop the investigation and should be hearing back sometime next week.