I was over the water in England at the tail end of last week on the Generation Game. I arrived on Wednesday tea-time to visit The Boy and his family. The parents left almost immediately to have diner à deux leaving me in sole charge of the Gdaus. The instructions were "read three short stories of her choice to Gdau.II [aged 2] and finish the chapter of Arthur Ransome's Winter Holiday . . . it'll be fine". And it was. The airy, obvious to all thinking people, instructions were sufficient. Amazingly, having switched off under my stern eye 👁, Gdau.II slept through the night for the first time in months winning the parents a valuable catch-up on their sleep deficit.
Earlier that day, I'd picked up a hire-car at the airport. From Green Motion [never heard of 'em] as it happens, because that popped up top on the Ryanair Website. Renting cars is a source of (usually unwarranted) anxiety for me, so I also bought some anti-excess-charges insurance on the same run through Ryanair's site. The Help at Green Motion walked me round the car and pointed out two scuff-marks on one of the alloy wheels and a tiny chip on the wing-mirror above. She flagged those on the rental sheet and said they'd charged the previous punter £140 for the damage. She also said the extra insurance was nothing to do with them: they'd charge me up to £984.60 damages and I would have to claim it back through the third party insurance. I would never have noticed the marks if they had chosen to find them at the end of my contract, and an unscrupulous company or its employees could make a nice little earner out of it: the scratches that keep on giving. Seems that Green Motion has a black hat reputation for this sort of thing.
Having dealt with the outside, The Help waved at the dash-board of the car and said everything worked from that central console and I'd have no difficulty. I muttered something like my trusty 12 year-old Yaris don't have no central console but didn't want to emphasise what a rube I was, in case she found more dints and scratches when I returned the car at the end of the contract. Well, I was in trouble immediately because a fan came roaring on when I turned the ignition which freaks me out because that sort of thing will quickly drain the Yaris battery. The central console had a hierarchy of menus at least partly driven by a touch-screen. The nearest I could get to 'fan' was something called climate control that allowed the driver to set the internal temperature of the car to the nearest half oC, which is good as human physiology can manage for my core body temperature. Over the next 3 days, I eventually worked out that I could switch the fan off by cranking the internal ToC down to zero.
After a few kilometers getting the gears, lights and wipers sorted out, I pressed a four-squares icon on the console and fired up photograph mode. Not being Russian, I had no intention of clocking up hundreds of dash-cam photos on my journey. But I couldn't get back to the original default mode for the console, so was unable to adjust my temperature. The seat was way back but the arrows pointing up and down on the first console screen had no effect on my posture: these eventually transpired to be connected to the air circulating fan: did I want the draft in my face or up me trouser-leg >!frisson!< . For an all computerised car, I was disappointed to find that I had to crank the seat-back forward by hand. The Help's airy confidence about how her cars worked was a good example of the curse of knowledge of course everyone knows the difference between pressing a button and pressing-and-holding a button. I only discovered that difference when I had to set the clock and tune the radio on the Yaris. In my day buttons were on or off.
I've written about being unable to find reverse gear on a hire-car in the 1980s. More recently I couldn't open the petrol tank on another hire-car - the was a lever on the floor near the driver's feet of course everyone knows that the obvious place to control access to petrol is a lever diametrically opposite to the petrol tank. I returned the car with a little more petrol in the tank than when I accepted it but there was no way they were going to credit my account for that. Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar or Enterprise next time I think.