Self-driving Cars

I was trapped. The airplane was full, and I was in a middle seat. We had just pulled out of the gate when the fellow to my left says, “I bet you can’t tell what I do for a living.”

I tried to imagine the worst. “Um, you’re a professional hijacker?”

“No, don’t be silly,” he said with a grin. “But that’s quite an imagination you’ve got there. I’m looking for people with imagination.”

“Then trade places with me. The guy to my right has a lot more than I do.”

“I’m a self-driving car salesman.”

“Is that anything like a self-starter? Everyone wants a salesman who’s self-driven nowadays.”

“No, I sell autonomous autos. Do you know anything about them??”

“Sure. Autonomous Otto is a line of German robotic personal assistants. They’ve all got the hot wires for Amazon’s Alexa.”

The man was undeterred. With nowhere to go, I had to listen to his spiel. But I didn’t have to give an inch. “That’s nice,” I said, “but I’ve been to the movies. I find self-driving cars scary.”

“Scary? They’re not scary. How about The Love Bug? Herbie is a loveable 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. Who doesn’t adore him?”

“But how about the movie Christine? Christine is this jealous, demon-possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury. And you’d better not get on her bad side, or she’ll turn you into road-kill.”

“Oh, come on now. Christine is no more than the product of Stephen King’s imagination.”

“Well, you’re the one who said that you’re looking for people with imagination. Stephen King’s got a good one when it comes to self-driving cars. And I don’t want my self-driving car to have a head-on collision with some car it has bad history with. I don’t want it to be pretending it’s Evil Knievel and take me off a cliff like in Thelma and Louise. And I certainly don’t want it to get mad at me and lock me inside while I choke on a sandwich.”

The salesman looked miffed but said, “Here’s the deal. Right now everything is going well for you, but if you live long enough you may not be able to get a driver’s license. What are you going to do then?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you know that you can own and operate a self-driving car without being a licensed driver?”

Suddenly I found my imagination. “Could I name it myself? I don’t like names like Alexa and Otto.”

“Sure, my company has hundreds and hundreds of names should you get stuck.”

“How about Jeeves? If it got lost, I could just say, ‘Home, Jeeves!’”

“Or you could name it Kato. He drove for the Green Hornet.”

“I like that! Still, I’m skeptical. The parking spaces at the drugstore and doctor’s offices and supermarket are very narrow, the parking lots very crowded. I don’t see how any self-driving car could get into one. And I’d need to keep up my health if I rolled around town fighting crime in the guise of the Green Hornet.”

“To be honest, all the technology for an autonomous auto isn’t quite there yet. Even if you wanted one right now, I couldn’t sell you one for street use. But the technology will be in place soon. And I can put you on a list to get one as soon as they come off the assembly line.”

“Do they assemble themselves?”


“You’d think they would. Christine could. And would mine have the ability to find a restroom if I asked it?”

“It would. It has apps for finding anything you want, say, a coffee shop.”

“Sounds like a vicious cycle. And do you think your company’s self-driving car could outrun a police chase?”

“A police chase? Why would you ask?”

“If I run out of money before I run out of retirement, I might need to rob a bank or two. I assume your self-driving car has a ‘git’ app.”

He frowned. “What’s that?”

“Back in the 1930’s, whenever Dillinger or Baby Face Nelson or Pretty Boy Floyd robbed a bank, their drivers had a ‘git’. It was a map, a route for escaping safely.”

“No, we don’t have a ‘git’.”

“Well, get one. Remember, you’re looking for people with imagination. Get us started, and you can’t imagine what all your company’s going to need, including lots of liability insurance. I bet terrorists will buy whole fleets of self-driving cars.”

The salesman looked as though he needed an airsickness bag.

“So,” I said., “I’m ready to sign up. Here’s my phone number…Have Kato give me a call when he’s ready to roll.”



1 thought on “Self-driving Cars”

  1. Dewey’s blog is like a phone call from a favorite grandchild on a cool summer morning. You start smiling the moment you hear his voice.


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