I am the purest kind of early adopter -- the kind who gets scorched repeatedly by first-generation consumer goods, swears he'll never bite again, and then gets whiplash reaching for his wallet the next time some marketing jerk dangles something new and shiny in front of him. All the same, I'm going to resist the Lexus LS 460, the car that parks itself.
It's not because the car isn't powerfully cool, and it's not because I can't afford it. (Which I can't.) It's because we have a dwindling number of small pleasures, and I count my ability to parallel park among them. Parallel parking requires mastery of a small amount of time and a discrete amount of space. It demands hand-eye coordination, which I lack in every other respect. (Want to have some fun? Hand me a bat and toss me a slow underhand pitch from thirty feet away. Then stand back and watch me injure myself.) The stakes are high -- not life-and-death high, but everyday high; miscalculate by an inch and you damage both your own property and a stranger's. This isn't only financially scary but morally challenging -- Yes, yes, yes, you'll leave the note on his windshield, but you'll think about driving away in anonymity, won't you? Best of all, unlike juggling or the ability to do Zippo tricks, parallel parking is actually useful. Who hasn't walked away toward a lunch or a business meeting casting a surreptitious eye back at his car, admiring the razor-thin margin between the fender and the curb, eyeing the neat allocation of space between the cars to fore and aft, and thought: "Nice."
I yield to nobody in my love for useless technology. I once spent a month's rent on a Sharper Image massage chair, which I enjoyed for every one of the 45 minutes until I realized I'd made a huge mistake. But I'll continue to parallel park myself, thanks, taking a small but real quotient of pleasure in the cranking of the wheel, the measuring of the distance, the application of small and precise forces. And when those jetpacks we've been promised since 1965 finally show up in the stores, I'll see you in line.
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