On the Big Island of Hawaii, where I occasionally winter, I rented a car that I discovered had a camera hidden somewhere in the its trunk lid or bumper. You may be surprised to learn that this camera was not a bug planted to spy on me. Even though I’m a social curiosity and thereby an interesting subject to spy on, the trunk camera was actually there so that each time I slammed the car into reverse in an attempt to introduce New England driving techniques to Hawaiians, an image what was behind me would appear on a screen located just below the radio, drawing my eyes away from the familiarity of my mirrors, where they had been trained to look for virtually all of my 35 years of driving in reverse gear.
I will admit that the camera worked in that it revealed the landscape behind me, which turned out to be the same same as what was ahead and on either side of me – a lot of lava rock.
I had this car for a little over a week, and in that time I didn’t progress at all in my ability to use the high-tech camera feature. Old dogs like me can’t learn new tricks easily, and in this case driving while looking down to where, half a century ago, my father would have been stubbing out his cigarettes made it feel like I was driving blindfolded. Each time the images popped up on the screen, I’d look for a second or two, fail to ascertain where I was on earth, then revert to using my mirrors. Ahh. That’s better!
I know that thousands of forward thinkers read my blog and reserve their mostly high praise for when they might encounter me by chance on the streets of Paris or Milan, but it wasn’t so long ago, maybe in the year 2010 or something, that I wrote a column in the Boston Globe Magazine in which I noted that my wife was curious about paying for a genetic profile, whereas I was not, wishing to be kept in the dark about the potential for my getting Alzheimer’s disease. The response to that column from acerbic commenters was swift and biting. “Science is wasted on you,” noted one.
These several years later, I’ve concluded that that particular commenter was mostly right. I regard many technological advances, including these car cameras, as of little or no use to me. Ditto Bluetooth smartphone adjuncts that can be permanently embedded into one's ear, such that you can never escape the texting and calling.
On the other hand, if they ever develop cars that can drive me across town while I read a book, I might actually sign up for one.