Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Idiot lights

I was driving north on Route 31 less than a mile from my house when it died.

The engine shuddered sadly and stopped, then all the lights flashed in the dash.

My heart was pounding. It had to be something Very Serious.

I called Jim in a semi-panic. He had just left for work so he wasn’t too far away.

It took him less than a minute to figure out it wasn’t so serious after all: I had run out of gas.

“But the light never came on,” I said with an extremely unattractive combination of incredulity and embarrassment.

“Maybe it’s not working,” he replied. “That’s why they call them idiot lights, ya know?”
That was four years ago.

Even now, the fuel light in my car works when it feels like it. And I’m always a little bit nervous when it gets below a quarter tank.

But lately I’ve been wishing for idiot lights for my life.

Just like my car, my life’s little warning signs seem to be malfunctioning lately.
It’s been small things. Like leaving my wallet, and then my lunch bag on the train.

Yep. And it was a really great lunch bag.

Worse, it’s been really big things, too.

Like pissing off my Best Friend in the World to the point where he’s not talking to me for a year. Telling off the wife of Jim’s Best Friend in the World to the point where things might never be the same again.

I’m great at identifying the faults in others. But not so quick when it comes to seeing my own.
On the news yesterday morning they were talking about a new Lexus that helps you park. It has a display like a video game with arrows to guide you into a parking space.

Question: If you can’t park a car without help should you be trusted driving it?
Idiot lights for your life.

Wouldn’t it be great?

I’m picturing a little light down low in the corner of my sight line – like those semi-transparent (yet still irritating) logos reminding you which TV channel you’re watching.

The idiot light in my head would glow a soft orange when I’m about to say or do something particularly offensive or stupid. It would turn bright red and angry when my ego gets in the way of seeing the truth.

And it would dance around like the evil twin of that manic yellow Wal-Mart dot to keep me from hurting the people who love me so well.
I am listening to: KT Tunstall – Other Side of the World
I am reading: The World is Flat
And I am: An idiot