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We arrived at our destination for the night and unloaded the car. When I removed the key from the ignition switch, the car beeped to warn me that the headlights were still turned on. It was my wife’s car and I am not as familiar with things as with my own car and I wondered if the lights would go off automatically after a minute or two like many other cars. I decided to find out so I shut the door and went inside and sat down. Then I decided to turn on my ThinkPad and since WiFi instantly came to life I was soon checking email and soon thereafter had forgotten my experiment. The next morning the car was as dead as a doornail. I felt stupid. Ok, it was a stupid mistake. (Webster: stupid = “acting in an unintelligent or careless manner”). Things went downhill from there.

Fortunately, I have a battery charger and after an hour the battery was back to normal. The car, however, was not back to normal. It started fine but it would not run properly. It sputtered and coughed and spewed black smoke from the tailpipe. To make a long story short, the problem was that when the battery went dead, so did the on-board computers that control how the engine works. It wasn’t just a matter of re-booting — it took an hour of running for the system to be able to properly adjust fuel flow, ignition, and exhaust. Until the system was back in a stable state, it automatically forced the engine to “misfire” whenever the engine exceeded 3,000 revolutions per minute. Unfortunately, that was not adequate to climb the hills I needed to climb.

After limping along for eight miles to a service station, Bill told me that he was not able to service the car because it required a computer to connect to the car’s computer and he didn’t have one. He said, in fact, that he can’t service any cars anymore unless the problem is the battery or tires. He said cars today with more sophisticated problems can only be serviced by a dealer with a computer diagnostic system made by the manufacturer of the car. He said if we just drive it for another few minutes the on-board computer would “straighten itself out”. He was right.

Ok, now back to “stupid”. If this car is smart enough to beep at me if I don’t have the seat belt connected, lock the doors when the car moves, misfire when rpm’s exceed 3,000 when it is not stabilized, reconfigure itself after a power failure, and many more things I am not even aware of, then why couldn’t it have been smart enough to turn the lights off after they remained on for hours with the car not moving. Ok, I was stupid — so was the car!

And speaking of stupid, how about the phone system. Don’t you love it when you dial a number and then get a recorded message that says, “The number you have dialed requires that a 1 be dialed first. Please hang up and re-dial”? That message was produced by software somewhere in the system. If it is smart enough to tell you that you need a 1, couldn’t it also just insert the 1 for you? Seems stupid. There are many other examples. Some days I think software is getting better and other days I think we are going backwards.

A friend of mine got a BMW 745i and it is one beautiful car. He pulled up to the curb where I was standing to pick me up. We waved to each other through the closed window. I tried to open the door and I could see that he was trying from inside. After five minutes, he turned the car off so the doors would unlock. I got in the car and we went on to pick up a third person. As we proceeded to dinner, my friend’s friend asked how many miles he had on his new car. Ummm. Five minutes later none of us could figure it out.

CEO’s are being asked to certify that their revenues, costs, and expenses are correct. I would like to see CEO’s certify that they have actually personally used their products. Not their assistants — them personally. Maybe we would get things that are easier to use. Ok, have I sufficiently gotten the focus away from my stupid mistake?