So as I was driving home this evening, one of the warning doohickeys on my car dashboard lit up and started dinging, indicating something was amiss. This normally wouldn’t be a big deal (I’ve been known to treat those things as suggestions rather than emergency alerts in the past), except I was over two hours away from home with the boys in the car and no Mr. Sammich, and this was right after my brother had told me I desperately needed new tires.
Oh my God, I thought. It’s the rear tire, isn’t it? WE’RE GOING TO DIE.
I inspected the doohickey for a couple miles, trying to figure out what it was telling me. Is that a screw stabbing into the rear passenger door? I looked back to make sure Alister was still safely napping in his seat. He was. Maybe a bolt missing from the door hinge? Or is it a drone missile lodged in my wheel well? I CAN’T TELL FROM THAT DAMN THING.
Unable to Columbo it on my own, I did what any responsible driver would do and slowed to a steady 20 mph, fished through the glove box for the owners manual, and began leafing through the pages. What could a wine opener piercing through the chassis MEAN?
Turns out, it means the gas cap isn’t screwed on tightly enough.
Oh, well that’s it? Why do they have to make it look like Zero Dark Thirty is about to happen in my engine block?
I couldn’t get this whole thing out of my mind the entire drive home. Why do they have to use these cryptic symbols? I wondered. Why can’t they just have a light-up message that says “GAS CAP”? It was really starting to bother me.
My initial thought was maybe because if they did that, illiterate people wouldn’t be able to tell what is wrong with their cars. Then, of course, I thought about how I had to practically conduct university-grade research just to discern what the damn symbol meant and decided that couldn’t possibly be the reason.
I began rationalizing the car companies’ decisions to do this stuff to their patrons. Maybe the machines that create the dashboards can’t make the tiny letters (WHAT?!), or maybe there is some kind of international car dashboard code which forbids the use of English (I wasn’t even drunk, I swear).
About a half hour from home, I decided they’re all a bunch of sick bastards who enjoy the thought of their consumers staring quizzically at their car dashboards before frantically tearing through the owners manual in the hopes they can find an answer before the sun goes down and they’re stuck on a deserted highway somewhere waiting to be eaten by a pack of ferocious Yetties, all because they can’t figure out whether the squiggly means they should do doughnuts on the highway or there’s a poisonous snake trapped in their hatchback. (And does that windshield need to pee, or is it having an orgasm?)