The family car has been whining at me today. When I slow down or back up or turn or look at it funny, the oil light comes on with a sad little ding. It just received new oil a couple weeks ago. It has now received more new oil. I don’t really know what its issue is and it is bothering me.
You know how new parents freak out a little (a lot, let’s be honest here) when their baby cries for no discernible reason? You know that feeling of wishing for a Babelfish, universal translator, or mind-reading abilities to know what is going on with them? That’s how I feel when my technology acts up. Why are you crying, car? Are you sick? Hurt? Unhappy? Bored? Do you want a wash? Do you want to take a road trip? Use your words!
So, because I am a geek, I got to thinking about self-aware transportation. This is a pretty popular trope; clearly, I am not the only person who wishes their car would talk to them. There are cars that turn into other things, and there are things that turn into cars. There are cars that fly, turn invisible, and rescue their owners.
I approve of all of this. My car, my first car, which is decidedly not the family car because only I get to drive my baby, is a ’68 VW Beetle. Green. Persnickety, but ultimately dependable. Fond of rock, but annoyed by my Japanese metal bands. She’s got personality, okay? This is a car I talk to and who comes pretty close to talking back to me. Teamwork, right there.
It should come as no particular surprise, then, that my choice for talking car teammate is Bumblebee of the Transformers franchise. For those of you only familiar with the more recent live-action movies, and not with the eighties cartoon and toy line, Bee started out as a yellow Beetle. Since my exposure to Transformers more or less coincided with my receiving my car at sixteen, you can see why I’m imprinted on the model so strongly. My commentary on any episode of Transformers pretty much consisted of “Beeeee” said in increasingly concerned and loving tones.
That being said, I do love the live-action version as well. While the Camaro isn’t really my thing (as much as any gorgeous car can be not-my-thing), I love that Bee makes use of the radio as a prosthetic voice. I’m not sure most people think of it in those terms, but I like that one of the lead characters in a science fiction movie is shown living with a physical disability. (And that Bee’s storyline does not revolve primarily around undoing that disability. *cough* Avatar. *cough*) Also, it means that Bee constantly quotes movies and songs and commercials and, well, it’s possible that I have always annoyed my family by communicating almost entirely through the same methods and materials.
What would your choice be? Have you had a car or other mode of transportation that seemed particularly alive? Has this been a source of delight or frustration? (“No, baby, we are not listening to The Doors today. Yes, you still have to start for me. Baby. Seriously. Come on.”)