Friday, November 21, 2008


I was sitting in the car, in a grocery store parking lot the other day while Brandy ran in to grab a few things. I sat there with the window down, ignition off and radio off. I hate the radio, the commercials, morning shock jocks that think they're funny and the same number one bubble gum pop song of the week played over and over and over again.
I like to sit quietly and people watch. I find it interesting to observe what most call human nature and I refer to as human habit. Cars and SUVs would pull up, families would pile out, pick wedgies, scratch, adjust and the herd would move toward the store. Can you tell I don't like large crowds of people either? That's why I sit in the car, and to think, as a child that was punishment. But what was most interesting about a lot of these people was the beep, honk and chirp from their cars as they walked away. Not a glance back for a visual check or knowing that the vehicle is locked when they close the door, but an annoying audio cue confirming that everything is locked up, safe and secure. It was starting to become irritating, as it was a pleasant day, the birds were singing and from across the parking lot you could hear this noise pollution that nobody else even noticed. We deactivated that feature on our car just for that reason.
What came to my mind was how many bells, whistles, doodads and thingamajigs we need on our cars that we don't ask for or come as standard equipment that we don't know how to use, activate or deactivate. I sat in our modest hatchback and took inventory, automatic transmission, cruise control, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks and 6 disc in dash CD player with auxiliary input. All the the standard equipment available in most cars, right? Then I started to look closer, driver and passenger SRS and side curtain airbags, front and rear variable speed window wipers, vanity mirror on the drivers visor, tilt steering wheel, height adjustable seating and height adjustable seat belts. I looked closer at the dash, a tach (for an automatic) and then turned the key on and got lost in all the pretty lights. Battery, temperature, brake, cruise, set, tire pressure monitor, and a "PS" light, what the heck is a "PS" and what does it do? Post Script? Power steering? Do I need a light to tell me my power steering is failing, wouldn't the stiff response to a turn input signal power steering?
We take for granted what a cars do for us. Did we ask for it or is it just what consumers have demanded or have manufacturers told us this is what we want, to make their brand more appealing over the competition?

Riding a motorcycle and running errands requires trust in mankind. We leave our bikes, sometimes with our helmets locked to the bike, sometimes not. Our bikes can be moved, hit, pushed, tipped or stolen, but I feel that is a part of what makes motorcycling what it is. A simpler time when we didn't need as much. I don't need a radio, let alone a 6 disc in dash CD player with iPod capabilities. I don't have an alarm, nor do I need one, motorcycles come with an unwritten law of do not touch. I don't even have a clock, nor do I want one. I have a key, a manual choke, a neutral indicator light, headlight high beam light, oil pressure warning light and a tach, that I installed by choice. That's it, pretty simple. I read the manual, I know what my tire pressure is, what my oil level is, I check my brake fluid regularly and I know how to operate my reserve fuel switch. And the drivers vanity mirror, is the mirrored windows of the bank on Main Street.

P.S. - I'll let you know how the story turns out with the novel I'm reading titled "Owners Manual".


  1. I think you have more comforts in your vehicle than mine, but you are right on in your assessment of the KIS(S) principle. That's why my car is manual shift 5-speed. I feel that you are actually driving, rather than aiming. The feel of the clutch, the response of the engine to your throttle commands. You are not distracted by all those electronic gizmos, ipod, radio, cell phone cause you don't have enough hands to operate them . and I feel (like yourself) that this makes you a more alert and better rider/driver.

  2. I was surprised to see how many features that come on the car as standard equipment. We purchased one of the least expensive cars available. A modest, economical, 4 cylinder, Nissan Versa.
    I don't think anyone even makes a vinyl floored, manual window crank, 5 speed, no radio, plain jane car anymore.
    I heard that Nissan plans to offer the Versa with a smaller motor, manual crank windows, without all the amenities for under $10K, but not until next year.

  3. Bradley: I work on cars for a living. Why you ask? For the most part many of these things are called for by Uncle Sam to save us from ourselves. Air bags? Yep. PTS? Yup ‘cause we are too damn stupid to tell when a car is ready to sake you out of your seat that you might have a flat tire. Or it could be we are so distracted from screwing with the 6 disc, iPod, GPS, 1000 way power seats, to notice that your car is about to throw a shoe and kill you!

    I agree the cars have more crap on them then they really need. But it is the consumer who has asked for these things. They don’t want to fumble with keys in the cold and rain, instead want to push a button to open the car. They don’t want to listen to the wife bitch that she is too hot/cold on her side of the car. They don’t want to listen to the kids “are we there yet” every ten minutes so the DVD/Playstation keeps their mouths shut. What ever happen to playing the license plate tag game? When was the last time you heard “don’t make me pull this car over” ?

    Then here is the killer. They REALLY bitch when it cost so much to figure out what is wrong with their doodad and to fix it. After all they didn’t ask for this crap instead it just came with out. But wait until it breaks and see how bad they don’t “want” it.

    I’ll keep my as simple as it gets Softail Standard.


  4. Both my car and truck are about as simple as it gets, I looked for those simplicities when I was shopping for them. The car does have A.C. and Cruise control, which are nice things to have, but I don't think that I would "miss" them if they failed with the exception of maybe a few days out of the year.

    What has come to my attention in the past few years, are these needs migrating over to the motorcycling masses. I could go on for a thousand words on my opinion about this, but I won't, perhaps that could be a post for another day.

    Like Fasthair, my current bike is about as simple as a new motorcycle can get, it reflects my personality to a tee, I'm a simple guy and I make no pretense about it.




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