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Habla ingles? Sprechen sie englisch? Parlez vous anglais?

How is it that a rock stock bog-standard Toyota Tundra has been smart enough to shut the headlights off automatically when you turn the engine off since 1999, but the Ford Focus Hertz rented me in 2015 still isn’t quite that bright?

Nice enough car, but still it’s a reminder of how crappy American cars continue to be. It could have the worst cup holder in existence, both in placement [1] and function [2].

As if there were any chance of me ever buying one, having bought a 1976 Chevy Vega and a 1980 Ford Mustang. Never again [3].

The Audis and BMWs that I’ve been getting are smart enough to turn off the headlights at least. Even if in the BWMs, I can’t figure out how to turn off the ill-timed mandatory traffic alerts [4].

At least I can choose the system language in the German cars. Doesn’t seem to be an option in the Ford, as far as I can find. The lady keeps talking to me every time I get in the car. I hope it’s not something important.


[1] Yes, if you shift into any even numbered gear, you hit the coffee cup, every goddamn time. Or bang your hand into the shift lever every time you reach for the coffee cup. Or grab the coffee cup instead of the shift lever in the unfamiliar car.

[2] It’s not actually a holder, it’s some friction slider thing, which only holds the cup front-and-back, until you actually pull the cup out and put it back once, then the friction slider moves a bit, so then it just rocks side-to-side in the holder as you go round the corners. Did no one at Ford actually even use this with hot coffee before they sent it out? Because my passenger noticed the hot coffee slopping onto him right away. First corner.

[3] Okay, that was some stunningly bad decision-making on my part, but to be fair, there was no internet then, and I was young and still taking the guidance of my elders.

[4] The traffic alerts which are invariably for some part of the country which isn’t me [5] are very good at going off right when the nav is telling me to do something complicated. Guess which one wins? The solution is to tell the iPhone to give nav instructions on its own speakers, not over the Bluetooth/USB, but the goddamn iPhone keeps “forgetting” [6] my preferences because of course it would make more sense to play the nav instructions over the car sound system, except when the car sound system is taken over by the ghost of foreign Lloyd Sigmon to tell me what the traffic is in Munich.

[5] I am in a very small boring town with no traffic, and I can hear the borrowed English traffic words [7] for Frankfurt and Stuttgart, which isn’t very helpful as I am several hours away from those places.

[6] Don’t get me started on how awful all the iPhone settings are with respect to cars. Every time I plug the phone it, it defaults to “repeat” “shuffle off” and the all-music playlist no matter what I had it set to before. Why can’t it remember how I had it set up the last time I plugged it into a USB port? Why does it forget which song I was on with USB, but not with Bluetooth? Stupid Apple.

[7] Can’t remember whether it’s “stop-and-go” or “sigalert”, but I was amused the first time. Not the next 12 times that it nailed the timing perfectly to override the nav instructions.