Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ridin' around with Bubba

As my family and I pulled out of a local restaurant's parking lot last evening, the amber "check engine" icon began glowing on the instrument panel of my Chevy TrailBlazer -- no reason to panic, of course, just something to notice.

I reached for the rearview and pressed the OnStar button. A few seconds later a person named John answered, asking how he might assist me. He tapped a keyboard while I explained the appearance of the light, and then he put me on hold for a half-minute or so.

When OnStar John returned to the line, first he confirmed my exact location -- and I mean right down to the off-ramp that I was taking at the time -- before telling me that the exhaust-gas monitor in my vehicle's emissions-control system triggered the dashboard alert. He suggested that I attend to the problem within the next seven days, even volunteering to connect me immediately with my dealer.

I politely declined his offer, thanked him and said goodbye.

As for the emissions-system bug, I'll chase it myself before calling a dealer. I've already connected my
CarChip, setting it to extinguish the idiot light. If and when the fault recurs, the indispensable gizmo will record the OBD code, arming me with knowledge to present to a mechanic (if it even comes to that).

Often, I've learned, these are nothing more than electro-mechanical hiccups, transient glitches
that pop up and then disappear. We'll see.

And then there's that whole I-know-where-you-are thing.

"The past was dead, the future was unimaginable." (George Orwell, from 1984 Part 1, Chapter 2)
Now I'm not one to walk around in some paranoid Orwellian fog -- I embrace technology's risks as well as its gifts. It can be disconcerting at times, but we coexist with "Big Brother" every day. Everything we do can be monitored; our every move can be fixed and followed.

Sure, my mail goes to a post office box. I know how to interrupt power to my truck's OnStar and EDR systems and I can disable or confuse my mobile phone's tracking features.

I also know that for those of us who want to enjoy the benefits of this tech-thick society, attempting to live life completely "off the grid" is, at best, a fool's pursuit.

Don't kid yourself -- it's way, way too late for us to waste time trying to "disappear." We'd be wiser, in my opinion, to spend our energy learning what ol' Bubba knows about us (and how He knows it, and whom He tells) than on trying to prevent Him from finding out.