Ask a Dilettante – Car Talk

Can you please explain to me the thinking behind headlights that stay on AFTER you’ve turned the car off? Unless your car is pointed exactly the direction you’re walking in, the lights don’t do you much good. What’s the deal?

Picture this. You’re standing outside at night – perhaps you’ve just finished dinner and are waiting for the valet to retrieve your car from a spot a few feet away – when you see a guy pull into the parking lot next door to the restaurant. He hops out of his car, but the headlights remain on. You yell over to him, “Hey, buddy, you left your lights on.” He barely pauses to look over at you with a combination of pity and disgust and then says, “They turn off on their own.” At that moment, magically, his vehicle’s lights turn off. He walks into the all night tanning salon or check cashing place, and your eyelid starts twitching.

So it would seem that the point is to make the occasional good Samaritan feel like an asshole. A twitchy asshole.

Dilettante knows from personal experience that the average person mistakenly leaves their headlights on long enough to drain the battery exactly ONCE. You tend to not forget again. But car manufacturers seem to think that the average person is incapable of managing his/her business. Are we really so stupid that we can’t find our way without a talking computer telling us when to turn? Are we really in such a hurry that we need remote start buttons on our key fobs, just waiting for our fat little fingers to push them?

The only thing today’s cars are missing is a place to put the Grey Poupon.

When the skies opened this week, trapping me in my car for over an hour while I waited for high waters to subside so I could get home, I started going a little stir crazy. There’s something very wrong about being in your vehicle and not moving. Unless you’re in traffic, which is a given in this town. Since Houston seems to flood at least once a week, do you have any suggestions for in car entertainment?

What, you don’t have an in-dash DVD player? For shame. You must be one of those old-fashioned people who likes to pay attention to the road while driving. BOR-ing.

– Did you know that you can use the u-shaped thingy in your car’s door jamb to open bottled beer? This, of course, requires that you have bottled beer on hand. I recommend you keep a cooler in the trunk of your car for the remainder of the summer thunderstorm season, just in case.

– Keep home-office receipts in your glove box, and you can work on your taxes while listening to some Doobie Brothers.

– Get out of the car and commune with the other stranded drivers. This is a great opportunity to take the pulse of your fellow man. Just watch for traveling hordes of mosquitoes.

[This column originally appeared in its entirety on Houstonist.]