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Can it Core a Apple?

March 8, 2015

“Tell me O Chef of the Future, can it core a apple?”

– Ed Norton to Ralph Kramden

My eyes have been wandering again. My thoughts have been elsewhere. I’ve just been through a full week’s crisis of faith with the Volvo. The flare-up started with a regular maintenance appointment at the mechanic’s shop. It was time for new belts and a routine 3,000-mile oil change. There’s not much to say about these. The oil changes are an important part of the car’s longevity and the thought of the belts breaking while I’m driving on one of the freeways, or worse, while one of the bridges, made that decision easy. On this car, there’s never a better time to change this water pump than when things are dismounted for the belts, so I ordered one of those too. All in, $744.26, split roughly even between labor and parts.

Work got in the way and I wasn’t able to get back to the mechanic in time for him to pull together the parts until late afternoon, so the car was at the shop for a full two days. I looked forward to picking it up and getting it back on the road.

An annoying noise from the exhaust system when driving it home doused my enthusiasm. I had pointed out the problem to the mechanic when I dropped it off and he made some adjustments, but it was now worse than it was when I left it at the shop. So, the Volvo went back in later in the week. After fussing with it one more time, the mechanic told me that this was a job for a muffler shop.

I don’t recall taking the car to a muffler shop in the twenty-eight years I’ve had it and had some misgivings about starting now. Who could I trust? Could I find someone open on weekends? If not, how was I going to handle the logistics and inconvenience to my work schedule and weekday routine? This was enough to spark my curiosity about commutes without the Volvo.

I started daydreaming again about breaking things off and trying something new. What would be the perfect commute car? I’d like that express lane pass reserved for the electric vehicles and certain hybrids, but do I really want to restrict my choices? Good gas mileage is critical, since I’m racking up one hundred miles each day. Comfort is also important, because those one hundred miles take much more time than you can imagine. A quiet ride is a necessity; the roads are a mess and insulation goes a long way. And safety is on the top of the list for all the obvious reasons. Lastly, if I can avoid it, I really don’t want to spend a small fortune on a car.

I was on the World Wide Internets today and clicked a CNN story about modern cars. It wasn’t really journalism, but rather a hype piece for AT&T, Audi and some technology companies engaged in creating computers on wheels. I read about the bright future we will enjoy with “connected” cars. This next phase for vehicle design, currently scheduled for 2016, will lead us to the nirvana now under research and development by the technology and big data gathering companies. Once we’ve arrived to their world, we’ll get around in autonomous cars carefully managed and monitored by who knows. Governments. Corporations. People on social media.

Of course, that’s not how it’s being presented. Here’s the promise that lies ahead, according to AT&T’s lead guy:

It’s about vehicles talking to vehicles and vehicles talking to infrastructure. It’s about moving closer to self-driving vehicles. It’s about this working with your home, it’s about inanimate objects taking care of you versus you taking care of them.

[You tell your vehicle], when I’m 20 yards from the house, I want my garage door to open, I want my doors to unlock, I want my security system to go off, I want my thermostats to be turned up. It’s about making people’s lives better.

“It’s all about making people’s lives better.”


I feel worse already.

I don’t want one of these cars. I want good gas mileage, a quiet and comfortable ride, an excellent stereo system and safety, thank you very much. That’s all. I’ll pause in front of the garage, use the clicker and wait until the door opens. The thermostat is in easy reach once inside and I’ll move the switch to the left or right, depending on whether it’s winter or summer. I’m good with that. Life is good.


Twice a year I have to change the clock. No 4G connection to spring ahead to daylight savings time today. Imagine that.

My mechanic knows that I won’t let just anyone work on the car. He recommended a muffler shop who he’s convinced that I’ll approve. Their shop is a couple of towns over. It’s a family business that has done this kind of thing for forty years. They have very high Yelp scores. So, all things considered, this what I will do. The car is there now and if all goes as planned, I’ll have four days of commute with the Volvo this week. And many more after that.


Perhaps my favorite Honeymooners sketch is when Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton go on a live TV commercial to make a lot of money by pitching their new kitchen gadget to a large viewer audience. It’s from a 1955 episode called “Better Living Through TV.” The act is void of any of Ralph’s hollering and carrying on, which are difficult to sit through. It’s a classic comedy scene with perfectly timed lines and exchanges and deliveries true to our memory of Jackie Gleason and Art Carney. These two talented TV pioneers were on top of their game during that scene.

Ed plays the role of The Chef of the Past. He points out the toils and inconvenience of preparing a meal with old-fashioned kitchen tools. He declares that life would be so much better with something different available to him. Ralph plays the Chef of the Future. He enters the live TV commercial with the modern kitchen utensil intended to replace the corkscrew, can opener, cheese grader, knife sharpener and a full table of other implements. His new gadget will do it all, better and faster than the Chef of the Past could even imagine. Indeed, the “Helpful Housewife Happy Handy” was “another proof of the happier life through television.”

Like all of Ralph’s other get-rich schemes, this one was a sure thing.

Ralph: We spend $200, we make $2,000 and the profit is $1,800. We can’t lose.

Ed: Can’t lose, huh? That’s what you said when you bought the parking lot next to where they were building up the movie house there. You said, “People going to the movies got to have a place to park their car.

Ralph: How did I know they were building a drive-in theater?

  1. Thanks to The Jetsons we all imagined having flying cars one day. We may not be there for awhile, but some of the proposed concepts that will be a reality soon are pretty wild. I’m with you–I’m not so sure I want to go there.

    You commute 100 miles a day? Wow. Sounds like a good time for audio books.


  2. If you drive your Volvo another 28 years, it will definitely be a classic car by then. Maybe at that point in time, you will make a shedload off it at auction. The Big Boss Man at The Grind recently traded in his 12-year-old Mercedes for a shiny new Tesla. From what he tells me it’s all computerized. About the only things he knows how to work on it is the ignition and the radio. But it remains to be seen if it can core his apples (I love that Honeymooners episode, too).


    • Big Boss Man was just breaking in his Mercedes. I’ve looked at the Teslas and was at the doorstep in Walnut Creek (yes, that farm town now has a Tesla store and a N. Marcus and Nordstrom…) last weekend and turned away. I am sure that it would be fun to drive, but there is something just too cool about it for me to pursue. It’s funny that BBM has only played with the radio.

      I saw that the black Pontiac Burt Reynolds drove in Smokey and the Bandit was just sold for a ton of cash. I think that’s the profile for the auctioneers. In 28 years, perhaps my old Volvo will be the last horse and carriage on Bay Area roads. We’ll turn it over to the U.C. museum to show the kids a bit of “old California.”


  3. And I thought my commute was awful… wow! And to be honest, I am not sure I like all this “smart technology” taking up our lives..


  4. A self driving car is not what I want. I like to drive. Turn on the radio, and hit the road. I do like a power window, defrost, and windshield wipers that work on interval settings, but I really do want to drive.
    Hope the muffler shop fixes the noise! Be safe on those roads!
    “How now brown cow” – enjoyed the link!


    • Defrosted windows are good. For you and everyone else on the road. It’s a feature that we can all get behind.

      How now you brown cow? Busy? Happy? Making progress?


      • Hi Bruce,
        I’m feeling great at the moment because I was fortunate enough to spend 3 days with dear friends in Florida. A quick, inexpensive flight down and back with just enough time for walks, good food and drink, and learning about tropical plants, trees, and wildlife.
        I’m energized and ready to get back at the campaign!


  5. Glad the car got fixed. Drive safe.


  6. I’m amazed to find someone who keeps cars for longer than I do. I had one for 18 years, and it was in pretty good shape when I bought the next one… but there were reasons… a long story. I can tell you, though, that late model cars are very different from what we were once used to. If it’s a good model, you’ll be anazed by how easy and comfortable they are. But I can understand your desire to keep the one you’ve had. We develop an intimacy with our tools… and a car can be much like a well loved old horse.


    • Even a war horse like mine. I do ride in modern cars and have a pristine low mileage car from not so many calendar years ago. I just think abour ideal commute cars.


  7. Thank goodness Volvo is back to herself and ready to roll! I’m really not into having a car that might be smarter than me. I just want to go from A to B peacefully listening to a radio.


  8. Made me smile. Thank you.


  9. Hope all ends up well with your car, Bruce! I just got mine back a few hours ago after 10 days in the shop following my daughter rear-ending someone with it 😦 Luckily, she and the other driver were no worse for wear!

    As for self-driving cars, not for me. I love to drive (as opposed to being the passenger). Perhaps it’s the feeling of control? 😉 And the kitchen gadget? How I wish gadgets imparted culinary skill – I have more gadgets than I can count, and while I know how to use them, I still can’t turn out a decent meal without experiencing some degree of stress. Apparently, unlike eating, cooking is just not in my wheelhouse 🙂


    • Hi Stacy –

      Car’s good. Back on the punishing Bay Area roads. It is a well-built machine that just keeps going.

      I like the idea of liking to cook, but it always takes more time than I anticipated and results are not guaranteed. I do have two apple corers and have over the years, smiled as I have used them, thinking about the Honeymooners scene. I first saw that episode in the 1970s and all these years later, still think it’s funny.

      Glad your daughter is okay after the accident.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. so true, as in the words of Henry David Thoreau, Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. We complicate our lives with so many gadgets that do so many things, who can keep up? When I bought my car four years ago (I’m not as loyal as you are with the Volvo) it had a built-in phone and backup camera.
    Granted I like the camera, but I decided to disconnect the phone once I realized I was so engaged in a conversation that nearly caused an accident.

    Too much does not make things better, it makes things more complicated. We’ve seen the ads for the smart cars, and really, why are all those options necessary. As far as I’m concerned, the best amenity in an automobile is a good cup holder. Next, is a good stereo, heated seats are a plus in New England, but really it comes down to, will this car get me safely from point A to point B and not bust my budget. Good piece, thanks,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keep the heated seats for sure. Cold seats are for park benches. I’d like the backup camera. I will even say, I might even need it these days. Sad, but possibly true.

      As for cup holders, believe it or not, at the time when we drove the car out of the showroom, Volvo advertised that they didn’t build cars with such frivolity. Those were just another gimmick meant to sell an otherwise unworthy vehicle was the way they spoke about it. So I’ve driven that car without a cup holder all these years. Not always easy for a person who was once a 2-3 cup guy.


  11. Great post Bruce! I love to read about the love you have for your Volvo! We had a 1985 Volvo 244 DL when we lived in Ethiopia, but had to sell it because we needed a different car for Uganda, which was/is a left-driving country….I like some of the features in my current “fully loaded” ride, like the fact it syncs with my cell phone and the great stereo system, but could be w/o many of the other “fancies” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exotic cars for exotic lands! I am sure you have many experiences from your time over there.

      I like the 85 244s. We had a new 88 GL for a short while. That too was a nice car. Our 82 244 GL, bought used, was not so nice. Too many hard miles on it before we bought it.

      Didn’t you tell me that your aunt was in Gothenburg QA when my car rolled off the lot? I would like to connect with her and include her in a Ram On post. Is that possible?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I did tell you that. She worked there from late 1970s until about 8 years ago when she retired after almost 30 years of making “the best Volvos” – according to her. Unfortunately she is quite unwell now and not very communicative even with me nowadays.


  12. So you did envision a created future for yourself, didn’t you. Having envisioned, I could also see what made you hurry back to the present. That is alright I suppose. But what I needed to ask you is this. As you go through your life at present and the comfort zone it represents, do you see it signify more of the past or the future that you envisaged?



  13. I’m with you on simple cars. I only want it to keep me warm and safe, to be reliable, and to get good gas mileage. I guess if I’m feeling really needy, I want it to have enough space to pack a bunch of hike gear into, or luggage for a road trip. Too many extras just seem like more opportunity for things to break. I unexpectedly became the owner of a brand new Jeep last summer and it has touch screens and digital everything. It’s amazing, but… how much is all this going to cost me when something breaks? Let’s say the link to Sirius XM radio goes out and makes the screen go dark, and I have to fix the radio so that I can see the clock? I know that’s unlikely but you see my point: too many things could break, and it’s all electronic, so it will be expensive. Argh.

    Anyway, I see your dilemma and I understand your attachment to the Volvo. Their reputations are earned, that’s for sure. Nothing lasts forever, and one day you will be driving something new. It seems like you’re making peace with that. 😉


    • What do you mean nothing lasts forever, Crystal? Not even a Volvo?

      Yes, I know. The day will come when we go our separate ways. It will be alright.

      (I do have a very nice car that I don’t use for my commutes, so I do get a break from the Volvo and it occasionally gets some time downtime.)

      A brand new jeep seems to suit you and your pastimes. I am sure that there are plenty of times it is the exact right car for you.


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