(NOTE, May 28, 2018: According to this post, recently discovered in my drafts, I picked up the BMW on June 7 and swapped it out on June 12.
I've written before about how, while taking our cat Bowie to the vet's on May 31, 2017
to find out why she kept vomiting every time she ate (it was because of an abdominal tumor, part of the cancer that would kill her in seventeen days), my mom's car was rear-ended when we stopped for a woman pushing a baby stroller across a crosswalk with a flashing yellow light - and the guy in the SUV behind us didn't.
The car was damaged, but driveable. It took more than a week to arrange to have the damage repaired. We didn't know how long repairs would take, and my insurance would only cover a total rental of, I think, $500.00. I went to one of the few rental agencies in the area, and found that they were preparing to move into a new location. Their vehicle options were limited. Only one vehicle was available, really - a BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle®. (Yes, apparently that term is a registered trademark.)
It was a bit more car than I am used to, considering that I spent twenty years driving a 1996 Toyota Tercel. The official website refers to its "intuitive controls," but I beg to differ. The inch-thick owner's manual came with an inch-thick supplement to explain how to use the radio. It took me several minutes to figure out how to turn the damned thing off - the vehicle, that is, not the radio. It simultaneously felt too big and too small. My first impression was that it looked like an oversized VW Golf, but driving it felt like I was navigating a yacht.
I only had the BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle® for
two full a few days before I was able to take it back to swap it for a less expensive vehicle, a stripped-down Chevrolet Aveo that made my old Tercel seem spacious by comparison. But during that brief time together, I managed to have one preposterous adventure.
The day after we were hit, June 1, a new paving project began on the street in front of our house, the street where I usually park the car. There was a chronically empty spot in front of the house across the street facing the front of our house (the one that recently lost the shingle that came through our front window
.) I parked the BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle® there, which meant that I could view this extremely expensive rental vehicle from the front door of our house.
Now, please understand: I am a stranger to many technological innovations in cars. In part this is because I do not trust them - or, rather, I do expect many of the electronic features on the car to cease functioning within the reasonable life expectancy of a car. Why have an electronic control for a window when a crank works just as well? Why have a pushbutton start for the ignition when a key works just fine and is more secure? Why use a key fob to unlock the doors remotely, and sometimes inadvertently?
After a few days of driving the BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle®, I was starting to get used to it. I had to make some peace with it, because I had tried to swap it for something smaller that day and could not. At the end of the day that day I parked the car across the street, dramatically used the key fob to lock it up as I was walking away, and then locked it again, just to be sure.
The next morning after I got up I looked out at the car. It was still there. It sure was a good-looking thing: glossy black paint job that was both dark and bright at the same time. Windows so clear they looked like they weren't even there. Why, I could see straight through the windows on the driver's side and the windows on the passenger's side like I was looking through plain air.
I didn't start work until a few hours later. Much of that time was spent tending to Bowie, giving her her medicine and syringes of food and water. About fifteen minutes before I had to be in work - it's a ten minute drive on a good day - I stepped out of the house, lunch bag and key fob in one hand, coffee thermos and jug of iced tea in the other. I had clapped my hat on my head before I walked out, but I left my coat in the house. It hadn't rained in days, and wasn't supposed to any time soon.
As I walked to the car, I was awfully glad it hadn't rained overnight. All of the windows were rolled down, and the sunroof was open.
How the hell did that happen? I thought. I don't have time for this crap. I started the car and rolled up the windows, and then began to fumble around looking for the controls for the sunroof as I drove. Nothing was intuitively obvious. A bunch of cryptic buttons were along the top edge of the windshield, the most obvious place for a sunroof control. This one didn't do anything, and this one didn't do anything, and this one...
Uh-oh. That one was marked "OnStar."
Within a few seconds I started to experience the consequences of my random button pushing. The headlights began to flash intermittently. The horn began to beep. An alarm screeched as I drove to work.
"This is OnStar, how can I help you?" a voice asked from somewhere.
I explained, as frantically and pathetically as I could, what was going on, explaining that this was a rental vehicle and I had no idea how all the windows had gotten rolled down or how the sunroof had opened up or how to stop the alarms and I was just trying to get to work. The OnStar person had to put me on mute at least once, probably to let out screams of laughter at my predicament. Eventually they were able to explain how to close the sunroof. They also explained what had happened: I must have held the "lock" button on the key fob for an extended period, either when I was double-locking the car the evening before or possibly by pressing the button while it was in my pocket. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to create this functionality? Who would think that pressing and holding "lock" should cause all the windows to roll down and the sunroof to open?
The next day Eventually I was able to swap out the BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle® for a much less expensive, spacious, and and technologically sophisticated Chevrolet Aveo, with roll-up windows and a key for the doors and the ignition and no sunroof. It was quite a step down, but closer to what I was used to.