Sunday, February 26, 2006

Big Brother is Watching!

Technology is wonderful - and kind of creepy, too! Yesterday I went out to the new truck to get the OnStar phone set up. The vehicle comes with a phone built in that is activated through OnStar and you can either get prepaid minutes through them, or if you already have Verizon Wireless as your cell phone carrier (which we do), then you can just have the truck's phone number added to your current Verizon Wireless setup as an additional phone and share the minutes with your existing phones. Anyway, that's what I climbed in the truck to take care of yesterday. I got out the OnStar instruction book and began to read. First I needed to push the OnStar button to retrieve the truck's phone number. Simple enough. I pushed the button and a voice told me that all OnStar representatives were busy but that someone would be right with me. Almost before that sentence was finished, a perky voice came on and said, "Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Bowen! Congratulations on your new 2007 red Tahoe! What can I do for you this morning?" Whoa. I felt a little prickle of strangeness and it was a moment before I regained my composure to tell her what I wanted to do with the phone. Well, we got that taken care of and then she asked me for my email address. I gave that to her and she said that my first vehicle diagnostic checkup would be emailed to me within the next 48 hours. What? I asked what this was and she said, "Oh, we just run a diagnostic check on your vehicle every 30 days - you know, check the fluid levels, the brakes, airbags, engine and transmission just to let you know if there's anything that may be needing attention soon". Oh my. This was getting weirder. After finishing my call with the perky-voiced lady from OnStar, Andy and I set up the calling commands for the phone. That's where we said the number, said "home", "Karen", or whatever name corresponded with that phone number, and it was stored by that name. Now we can push the little phone button either on the steering wheel or the mirror and you just say "Call", and then the name and it will call that number. After Andy and I had finished entering in all the names and numbers, we decided to try it out. He pushed the button and said, "Karen". Almost as soon as we heard the phone start to ring, one of the gauges on the dash changed and now read "Calling.....410-474-......", and stayed that way until the call ended, and then went back to it's normal digital readout. We are still figuring out what this vehicle can do! Jerry has it mostly figured out, but I haven't spent too much time in it (this past week was the end of the pay period for both jobs, so I was mostly in front of the computer all week). Jerry discovered a button on the dash that gives you a readout of the tire pressure in each tire. Now if only it could drive itself.........

We went to Jerry's mom's house last Sunday and decided to try the navigation system. There is a screen on the console that either shows the radio information, a map when you use the navigation system, or when you are backing up it shows you a view of what is in back of you which then changes back when you put it back into Drive. We entered Jerry's mom's address and then left the driveway. Almost immediately a disembodied voice said, "Turn left in 2/10 of a mile". Then a little gauge showed up on the map that was going to show us when we had reached 2/10 of a mile. But we didn't need the gauge, because when we got to the end of the street when we needed to turn left, a little bell sounded twice and the disembodied voice commanded us to turn left. Things were going along just fine until we got about halfway to Jerry's mom's when the voice told us that we would be making the next left off of the main route. Huh? That didn't seem right . That would be taking us off of Route 2 to head in a different direction. We weren't sure where it planned on taking us, but we weren't going to find out. We ignored the voice and continued on our normal route, like stubborn children. Apparently the system behind the disembodied voice figured this out too, because it did a rapid recalculation and then adjusted itself to the route that the stubborn children had insisted on taking. We were half expecting to hear at the next turn, "Turn left - if you feel like it", but the voice maintained it's composure despite our ignoring it's earlier command.

Today I received an email with our first diagnostic check. It told me how many miles the truck had on it, the amount of miles the oil had left before it would need a change, the condition of the engine and transmission, the condition of the brakes and airbags, the information about our OnStar service, our telephone number and information about our Verizon Wireless plan, the status of our satellite radio subscription and when that expired (along with a link that you could click for "one-click renewal" - how convenient), the VIN number of our truck, and a little picture of a truck. But alas, even though the little picture of the truck beside our diagnostic report was indeed a 2007 Chevy Tahoe, the one in the picture was gold - not red. I guess there are some things that it can't do!

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