Let me get something straight from the get-go: I am not a technophobe.
I neither fear nor hate technology. Believe me, I've no urge to return to The Good old Days of belt-driven dental drills, film cameras, and mechanical watches. No matter how you cut it, they were less efficient, more expensive, and in the case of the dental drills, a whole lot more painful.
But neither do I blindly embrace all "new and wondrous" technologies.
Take cell phones, for example. They've become a fact of life and they serve a useful purpose: For emergencies, they can't be beat. But if you depend on them instead of survival skills to save you in the wild, you might be sorely disappointed not to mention dead.
Also, cell phones increase communication exponentially. But do they improve it? I've got my doubts. It seems most cell phone messages are texts whose brevity is outdone only by their meaninglessness.
Finally, as for people being on cell phones while driving cars? The statistics on that scene speak for themselves - even though no one pays attention to them (too busy checking their texts, I suppose).
To me, the issue with technology is convenience vs. cost, and when I say cost, I don't mean in terms of money only.
For instance, computers. With them we can access more information in a few hours than we could have in days or even months in an old-time library. But information, of and by itself, means nothing. Hour after hour of reading about the Kardashians, Jody Arias, et. al., have no positive results that I can think of.
The thing about technologies' costs is many of them are hidden. For example, time spent on Facebook reading about the meal of someone you barely know (but who in Facebook terms is your "friend") could've been spent actually doing something. It's not a monetary cost, but you're paying it nonetheless.
And now a technology with a huge hidden cost - cars' electric windows.
They're standard on cars, but how much extra do we pay for them? Who knows? But you can bet their arrangement of switches, relays, belts motors and the rest costs a lot more than the old crank windows.
But $$$ aside, do really need them? Hardly.
Yeah, sure, with crank windows you can only raise or lower the driver's window while you're driving, but is that a real issue? If you want to fiddle with the other windows you have to pull over to do it, but that can be done in a minutes. Besides, get real: How often do we need to raise or lower those windows once we're underway?
Finally, for the sultanic luxury of total window control at our fingertips, what happens if something goes wrong with the system? If you want to know, read on.
I got my first car in 1971. It was an ancient VW Beetle, as were my next seven cars. They all had crank windows and all the windows worked perfectly for all the cars' lives, which averaged around 200,000 miles. Engines got rebuilt, body work got done, windshields got replaced, upholstery went to hell but the windows kept going up and down, no sweat.
Electric windows in inaction
My next two cars had electric windows, and guess what? Yep, both of them had windows that crapped out one way or another. And how much does it cost to repair a malfunctioning electric window? Luckily, I don't know, since they all died in the up position - where they stayed the rest of their days.
My latest bout with electric window widowhood happened last Friday.
I was basking in a warm sunny day, cruising up and down the boulevards of My Home Town, spirits up, and windows down. The dogs were also having a blast, heads into the wind, tongues flapping in the breeze.
It seemed too good to be true and it was. Suddenly, the wind picked up, the sky blackened and the sun disappeared behind ominous storm clouds.
"Holy moly!" I thought, "Armageddon is at hand!" Of course it wasn't, but a bunch of rain was.
I sprang into action, closing my windows. Unfortunately, one of my windows didn't spring into action, and as bad luck would have it it was the driver's.
The sky got darker and so did my mood.
I flipped the window switch back and forth. Nada.
I pulled over, turned the car off, then on, then flipped the switch again. Still nada.
I spit on the switch and the window. Nada yet again.
So now what?
I considered my immediate options and came up with only one the old garbage-bag-and-duct-tape gambit. This would've kept the interior relatively dry and the car completely undriveable. It also would've made the car (and thus by proxy, me) look like Hillbilly Deelite.
For long-term options, there were two. One was moving to Arizona. The other was having the window repaired. Moving to Arizona, while probably cheaper, was too time-consuming. But if I got stuck in a bunch of downpours with my jury-rigged repair, it was sure to result in soggy seats, rugs and everything. Then again, getting a car appointment might take as long as a move to Arizona. So what to do?
Against my better judgment and bank balance, I did the sensible thing.
The master's touch
On my way to Evergreen Auto, I contemplated the cost of an electric window repair. I also contemplated putting my cats and dogs on half-rations, doing my laundry by hand, and switching to a diet of dandelions and birch bark. I figured with the money saved, I could pay off the repair bill in less than a decade.
Once in Evergreen, I immediately approached the service manager Dave Smith.
"Dave, I'm in a pickle," I said, trying to keep the hysteria out of my voice.
"What is it?" he said.
"My driver's window is down and out," I said.
"Let me have a look," he said. "Then I'll have Ivan check it out, see what we can do."
He told me to go into the lounge and find something to read for a while - though how long a while he didn't say, and I didn't ask.
I had War and Peace in my car and figured that might last long enough, but before I got to the car, Dave had it in a bay. So I went in the lounge, sat down, and picked up a People magazine. Lately, I'd been wondering how Lindsay Lohan was doing, since she never wrote or called anymore. And no sooner had I opened up the magazine, than Dave appeared before me.
"Go get your car," he said.
"It's done?" I said, incredulous.
"You fixed the window already?" I asked.
"Sure did," he said.
"What'd you do?"
"Just flipped the switch and pounded on the door, right over the motor. Worked like a charm."
"That's all you did and it went back up?
"That's all," he said.
Then he added the words he never needed to say.
"But whatever you do, don't lower the window again."
As I pulled out of the lot, the heavens opened and rain pelted the car. Me, I just kept driving, grinning like a jackass eating prickly pears, groovin' on my now-waterproof ride.
Funny thing: "High and dry" was a term that always meant having bad luck, but that day for me, it was exactly how I wanted to be.