I had to go out to drop my car off at the repair place so it can have its scratches sorted out -- this may not be a terrible thing, as I've been idly fantasising about having a light scratch down one side sorted out for a while, but I knew I'd never be bothered enough. This morning, the car place asked me if there was anything else I might need doing at the same time, so I asked them to quote me for it. If I'm lucky it'll just need a bit of cheap polishing work, so if it doesn't add much to the bill, I might as well get it sorted.
My loaner is a Toyota Yaris. It's the kind of car that makes me completely certain in my choice of a Mini Cooper :) It looks about the same size as the mini -- this may be because it's painted in the colour "off-boring", and so seems to disappear into the background from most angles. Driving, though, it feels like a big floaty tank that you're operating by remote control, and the car's responses feel like they're being phoned in from another timezone.
Two things have annoyed me about its user interface so far: first, I nearly failed what I like to think of as the "NCIT": the "new car intelligence test". That's the moment when you get in yet another modern car that you're not used to driving and then face the sinking realisation that you're not clever enough to figure out how to turn it on.
These intelligence tests are many and varied -- my first experience with trying to find where the hell to put the keys in a SAAB was quite interesting, but I found the hole in the end (little did I know that there was a second stage to that intelligence test where the car had to be in reverse gear to take them back out again...)
Then there's the first automatic I drove, where I had no idea that they wouldn't start unless they were in "PARK". Of course, that was later made even more confusing by getting given another automatic, carefully remembering to put it in "PARK", and still not being able to go anywhere. The nice lady from AVIS had to let me in on the secret that you have to have the brake pedal held down, too.
These problems aren't all of the manufacturers' making. My friend Marie got an embarrassed call from a garage the other day because she'd delivered her car to them to have some bodywork done and they couldn't figure out how to move it. Turned out a paranoid ex-boyfriend had installed the kind of alarm system where you had to touch a key fob against an unmarked bit of the car interior to disarm the immobiliser, and she'd forgotten to let them in on the secret.
There's no real excuse for a manufacturer not to let you in on the secret, though. I mean, it's the 21st century, isn't it? The computers in the Yaris probably put this modest iMac I'm typing on to shame. It's got a digital display with a bargraph rev-counter -- stupidly and pointlessly right in the centre of the huge dashboard, and nowhere actually near, you know, the driver, but that's a rant for another day. The point is, it's got lights coming out of its ears.
But it hasn't got a warning light for "you need to have the clutch pedal depressed to start the engine". All it would take is a little light with, say, three pedals on it with the left-hand one flashing, instead of the blank and irritating refusal to start that you get instead. That's all it would have taken for me not to feel like an idiot and curse Toyota for three minutes this morning.
Luckily, I'm used to the NCIT, and was half-expecting it, so I did actually figure it out for myself in the end, rather than having to go back and ask the girl behind the counter in the body shop. Of course, she could have told me in advance, but of course you don't get many kicks working behind the counter in a body shop, and so it seems to be normal policy for all customer-facing staff in places like this to play the "will he fail the NCIT?" game with every new sucker who picks up a loaner.
Anyway. I managed to get home without too much more incident -- although it was entertaining figuring out that the irritating beeping alert noise wasn't coming from the radio, but from the little warning light on the other side of the dashboard, telling my passenger that he didn't have his seatbelt on. Quite how my (fairly-light) rucksack was meant to respond to this warning wasn't exactly clear, mind.
And that's my day so far. Sorry for the rant, but poor user interfaces annoy me. If I look on the web, maybe I'll find someone's started a wiki for the NCIT. If not, maybe I'll get one kicked off. www.howthehelldoIstartthiscar.info, anyone?