It all starts innocently enough. I have just landed at Portland International Airport, or PDX for you acronym fans. As I have done at dozens of other airports, I head to the rental counter to pick up my car. Everything goes smoothly as the agent directs me to a compact Subaru. His pleasant demeanor gives no hint at the wild ride that lies ahead. The short drive to my airport hotel lulls me into a false sense of security.
As the trip progresses, however, I have a horrifying realization: my car is demon possessed. Allegedly the car’s odd behavior is due to advanced safety features, but I am convinced more sinister forces are at play. How else can I explain the vehicle’s performance? If I use my blinker to indicate a lane change, the blinking light somehow hypnotizes the unseen minions and they remain dormant. But if no cars are around I skip the blinker because what is the point? This transgression on my part unleashes the forces of darkness and hell hath no fury like an unsignaled lane change. They immediately seize control of the dashboard and the speedometer is replaced with an aerial view of my car and the painted lines I am crossing without permission. The console begins to emit a series of beeps and growls that can only be described as other-worldly.
At least I am still in control of the car and it seems the gremlins are incapable of actually taking over. Or so I think. My delusion is shattered once I find the cruise control and settle in at a comfortable cruising speed. I am moving along fine until I start to approach the car ahead of me. As I am about to change lanes the unseen forces awaken. This time they take control and the car starts slowing on its own. Why won’t you leave me in peace? I mean, come on, I was even going to use the blinker! This is not the only indication that my anti-social car does not like other cars. If a vehicle passes on the right or left, an evil yellow glow appears on the side view mirror, warning them to get back. Picture the glowing eyes of a cobra in a black light poster and you get the idea.
Am I being paranoid? Perhaps I am. Can a car really be demon possessed? Maybe not. Hmm, time to apply Occam’s Razor and look for a more straightforward explanation. Wait a minute – I’ve got it! The answer is so obvious I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. The purpose of my tribulations are so the engineers at Subaru can have a good laugh at my expense. If they are smart enough to make a car that takes control, then certainly they are smart enough to install a hidden camera with a satellite feed to Japan. “Hey, Hiroshi, watch this moron from Arizona try to use the cruise control.” As I look wildly about to see why the car is slowing, I start slamming the dashboard in frustration. This is too much and the entire Subaru design room erupts with laughter and high-fives. Taiki, the most fun-loving engineer in the group, is literally and not metaphorically ROFL.
I am too far into the trip to swap cars, so what else can I do? I submit to their hijinks and press on, pounding the dashboard as needed. My only consolation is knowing that my pain spreads joy across the sea. The northernmost point in my journey is the Olympic Rain Forest, emphasis on the word rain. I half expect the car to flash a warning that it is too wet, but for once it leaves me in peace. Since I live in the desert, I am experiencing two phenomena I am not used to: precipitation and trees. These are not just any trees, but trees with stuff growing on them. I never realized there are so many shades of green. I capture it as best I can and prepare to fight the car for the final day of the trip. When I return to Arizona I think I will ride my bike, which never beeps or growls at me.