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COUNTY AGENT GUY

By Staff | May 1, 2015

Modern society has benefitted enormously from computerization.

For instance, any savvy consumer can use their smart phone while shopping to watch – in real time – as their credit card balance balloons.

Computers are everywhere these days. There’s even a pacifier that comes equipped with a microprocessor and Bluetooth.

I don’t know what the purpose of this whiz-bang binky might be except to help you find your baby should you misplace him or her.

Which would be a boon for folks who, like me, often forget where they put things.

Cars have had computers in them for some years now. Automotive technology has advanced to the point where vehicles can send emails to their owners. How would such an email read?

“Greetings from your family sedan.

“First off, I want to remind you that I was due for a tire rotation 1,582 miles ago. Please do not allow the male owner unit to jack me up and perform the rotation in the driveway as before.

“My lug nuts haven’t been the same since.

“A number of French fries recently fell between the backseat cushions. Please remove them at your earliest convenience. And I regret to report that the Kool-Aid stain in the rear deck has now become permanent.

“Driver A exceeded the posted speed limit several times this week. Driver B (whom, based on the seat/steering wheel settings, I assume is female) continues to apply my brakes with too much vigor.

“I recently overheard several derogatory comments regarding my acceleration. These all occurred when a yellow traffic light was directly ahead. I might only be a super-intelligent machine that can drive way better than any of you bozos, but I still have feelings.

“Thank you for your kind attention and please remember to change my engine oil within the next 412 miles. P.S.: At 8:37 this morning, another wad of bubblegum became stuck in the rear carpet.”

The advent of automotive computerization has been a kick in the teeth to us guys. In the era before microprocessors began micromanaging our cars, the average guy could open the hood, lean across the fender and authoritatively point out such things as the carburetor and the manifold and that doohickey at the back of the engine that will give you a pretty hard shock if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Sadly, computers have eliminated many of these components. Now all we guys can do when we open the hood is gape at the bewildering array of electronics and mutter, “Yep, there’s the engine. Or maybe that’s the motor.”

We will do this even if we are dealing with a rear-engine car and are, in fact, looking at the trunk.

Another unintended consequence of computerized cars has been the decline of the small automotive repair shop. The kind of grungy, grimy garage that had room for perhaps two cars; a place that reeked of powerful grease-cutting solvents and had an ancient Coke machine and a little vending thingamajig that would dole out a handful of peanuts for a dime.

There was a time – B.C.E., or Before Computers Everywhere – when every town had a small automotive fixit garage.

When I was a kid, Bob’s Texaco was just such a place. A guy could stop at Bob’s and get a tank of gas (pumped by Bob himself) or a new fan belt or a set of tires.

And while you were there, you could enjoy a cold soda and hear the latest from the cadre of stool roosters who were always hanging around.

If none of that floated your boat, you could watch Bob install a new radiator or swap out a transmission. In short, Bob’s Texaco was a “happening” place that offered something for everyone.

Each spring, when the weather began to warm, my Grandpa Nelson would drive his Super C Farmall tractor the six miles from his farm to Bob’s Texaco.

Grandpa would ask Bob to perform a spring tune-up on his C, which included an oil change and new ignition points and spark plugs.

Grandpa would hang out while Bob ministered to the tractor. Once, I happened to stop at Bob’s while Grandpa was waiting for his C.

Grandpa bought me a pop and a dime’s worth of peanuts and we sipped soda and listened to a local windbag ranting about why the world was going to heck and how he missed the good old days.

Computers have certainly brought benefits. But I miss the days when a guy could hang out in a greasy garage and there was never any doubt over who would win a battle of wits between a car and its driver.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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