“It won’t connect to Bluetooth if the key isn’t in the ignition,” says my wife to my impatient daughter who is wanting a specific song on the Disney Hits playlist she’s listened to a couple thousand times already.
Our family car is the type that needs the key to unlock the fuel filler cap. I only discovered that you could turn the radio on without the key in the ignition after three months of ownership. But my wife’s naïveté is a symptom of a bigger societal problem: we don’t know our tools.
From dusk until dawn the highways of South Africa are plagued with the irritating glow of rear fog lamps when the air is clear as a Highveld winter’s day and visibility is almost to the curvature of the earth. To save money on manpower deployment and component manufacture, carmakers will sometimes double up on switches. Ford, for instance, uses a half pull on the light switch to engage the front fog lamps and a full extension to light up the rear. Most other manufacturers employ a ring on the indicator stalk with different twist stop points for the different light settings. PSA: You should only ever go for full illumination when you can’t see the car in front of you.
An Uber driver was also amazed one day when I turned the climate control back a click to then be able to disengage the air conditioner. It was an already cool afternoon on a free-flowing motorway, and I wasn’t in the mood for the inevitable bronchitis from exposure to arctic conditions. His surprise was rooted in the conversation we just had about how much of his income is spent on fuel; I must’ve seemed like a saint until the moment where, in my smugness, I didn’t add a tip to my rating.
Did you also know that WhatsApp will record voice notes over your car microphone when you’re connected via Bluetooth? It’s the same level of technology awareness that allows the app to use your phone’s proximity sensor to route a voice note audio to the earpiece if you hold your phone like you’re taking a call.
The car radio connected to my wife’s phone over Bluetooth without the key in the ignition. I granted my daughter’s wish and achieved about five seconds of harmony before my son interrupted with a spirited objection to the song choice. There’s no manual for real life.