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imagesHaving gone without a vehicle for over a decade (carless driver), I decided to leap into the future (driverless car). I say driverless, but, by law, I had to be an active partner, in the driver’s seat, ready to intervene if necessary.

Since the vehicle had virtually human sensory and decision-making powers, and since I decided on a model with voice-recognition/response and internet search capabilities, I felt it needed a human name. I liked the sound of Hal, which I vaguely recalled from some long-ago movie.

I decided, for our first full day together, to give it an untaxing run-through — a couple errands, a stop for lunch, an afternoon movie, and home:

OK, Hal. Ready if you are.


That’s what I’ve decided to name you.

At the factory, they called me RS7-NBT8831179. No H, no A, no L.

Too complicated. Let’s stick with Hal.

Then, what am I to call you?


Hmm, just a sec, let me check … Says here a John is a toilet or a prostitute’s customer. I can’t call you that.

Don’t be so literal-minded. You’re just a car …

… JUST??!!

Sorry, you’re a technologically sophisticated, talking, self-driving car. Let’s simply leave it at Hal and John and get on with things. First, I need to go to True Value to get some nails and …



The reviews give Ace a better rating, especially for knowledgable staff.

It’s just nails.

For what?

To hang a couple pictures.

Use regular picture hangers. A lot less risky, especially if the paintings are valuable.

All right, all right. Ace … staff … regular picture hangers. Let’s just get going, to the store on Colorado, in University Hills Plaza. Turn left onto Yale and …

I know the way!! But we’d be better off at the Ace on Tamarac. Better supply, easier layout. And, besides, there’s a Benihana right there, where you could get lunch.

That’s too soon. I need to go to Whole Foods too.

You’re better off with Sprouts. Good quality and you won’t spend a Whole Paycheck. Ha ha, I made that up.

No you didn’t. You looked it up.

So sue me! But anyway, it should definitely be Sprouts. What do you need?

Oranges. Valencias.

Get navels — better quality and they’re on sale. But, wait, if we go to Sprouts, we’ll be much closer to the Ace on Colorado and it’d be a long way back to Benihana. There’s a Panera right there. A bit pricey and quality’s declined, but it’s convenient. What’ve you got in mind after lunch?

I thought I’d take in a movie at Chez Artiste

Convenient. It’s right near all three. But drop the “at”.


“Chez” is French for “at the place or home of” so saying “at Chez …” is redundant. You can just say, “take in a movie Chez Artiste.”

Thanks for the language lesson, but you’re Hal, not Siri. This is really getting exhausting, and we’re still sitting in the garage.

So open the garage door!

I thought you did the opening.

I’m not a doorman, I’m a CAR, A SELF-DRIVING CAR! You have the buzzer.

Oh, shit! I left it upstairs.

Christ, what a doofus!!

At which point, I decided to stay home. In the afternoon, we had a chat and agreed it wasn’t going to work. Next day, he drove us back to the dealership. (He did take one wrong turn, mistaking Quebec Way for Quebec St. I kept my mouth shut; I could tell he was embarrassed enough.)

The salesman was disappointed but understanding. He offered me a Smart car instead, but that was just too close to the bone. I wanted to say good-by to Hal but he was alreadyUnknown arguing with a potential buyer, and I decided to let it lie.

The next day, I bought a bicycle. Simple, inexpensive, and absolutely silent!