(Dispatch from the year 2048)

So, I told my smart car to fire up “Skyrockets in flight, afternoon delight.” Then I set my new car pillow at my knees to keep the pressure off my aching back. I told the car to “cue holograms,” then added “polite conversation” — “make it about the beach.”

My youthful parents appeared in the front seat as I lay down in the back, just like my childhood trips. They discussed Daytona seafood restaurants and whether tartar or cocktail sauce is better. The AI program almost mimics their actual voices. I chimed in that I like cocktail sauce better as an adult, forgetting that they were just holograms and couldn’t care less about my preferences.

Many people these days prefer holograms of famous people on car rides. That Johnny Cash hologram is pretty cool. And having him and June Carter Cash sing “Jackson” to me from the front seat of my 2044 Chevette is mighty fun. (Isn’t it interesting how the Chevette made such a comeback as the king of smart cars?) I also really love hologram concerts at home. Jenny, my robot, does, too. Jimi Hendrix held that blistering long bend in “Machine Gun” last night, standing right by me as I sipped on my vanilla nut frappuccino from Starbucks. I sent Jenny and the Chevette out and told them not to tip the droids. Those $96 coffees are adding up. I remember back when they were only $17.

No doubt, music stars in the home are cool entertainment — we don’t need the real thing now that we have holograms — but on a long trip, I like the “presence” of my parents.

“Drive!” I hollered to the Chevette over my hologram parents’ beach talk. I settled in for a good sleep as the car started its engine.

“Air conditioning?” it asked in Morgan Freeman’s voice. I switched to Morgan from Marilyn Monroe about a week ago.

“Of course! 72 degrees, sea salt aroma, level four.”

I was so angry. The sea salt was too intense again. It didn’t smell like the ocean. Instead, it was bitter, almost poisonous, like a toxic cleaning solution. I felt a sharp pain in my sinuses.

“Send tissue,” I said.

The Alexa Command Hand extended the tissue to my nose and wiped, but it was a little too forceful and it hurt.

“Apologize!” I shouted.

But the smart Chevette made a hissing sound, like air leaving tires. And I shouted “apologize!” again. No answer, more hissing.

These newer smart cars are getting a little testy. Have you noticed, too? It’s like they’ve started getting ill with all the commands. And I might not renew my Google smart car account if the AI droids don’t improve their brothers’ manners. But then again, there’s nowhere else to go. Google has it all. Jenny’s been a bit rude, too. I’ve caught some strange, sideways glances from her. I wonder what’s up in that “brain.” Does she really like me as much as she says she does? I understand this is stupid, but it feels like she does like me, until sometimes it doesn’t.

I’ve also noticed that the Chevette has been speeding up lately, taking turns too sharply. I tell it to slow down and it sometimes accelerates like teens used to do before they were banned from actually driving.

Of course, I got a buddy who still actually drives his own car. He was grandfathered in, along with a few other old-timers. That Luddite! There are a few stubborn old-timers like him, who utterly refuse to give in to today’s technology. One of these Luddites actually ran into my 2039 Chevette a few years back.

He was like: “This is entirely your fault.”

“Can’t be! I wasn’t even driving,” I told him.

“But your car caused it,” he said.

“Take that up with Google!” I shouted back. Then I commanded the car to “Get a wheel!” and I left that guy in the dust.

I love not driving. The technology is so sound that there’s just no need to do the old 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, even if you actually had a steering wheel. I retired from driving in 2038, and I’ve “slept at the wheel” ever since. Meanwhile, the auto industry has sure stepped up its entertainment capabilities in recent years. When I’m not sleeping while riding, I’m getting a real haircut virtually from my barber in Scandanavia. Amazing how the Chevette is such a Swiss Army knife of functionality now, just like our smart phones, which were once actually solid state, not elements of the air. Remember that? Solid state is so 2023. They knew nothing back then. Quaint times.

My gloomy buddy keeps saying, “You better watch out! This car is going to be the end of you.”

But I don’t pay him any attention. He’s too set in his ways.

My hologram parents are in the front seat discussing beach motels. I’m in the back seat now waiting for the Ambien vapor to kick in from the vents. But the little red Chevette is suddenly insisting on speaking in Prince’s voice for this trip. “Put Morgan back on!” I holler. It’s like the Chevette wants a voice of its choosing, not mine. Those AI droid developers, I got to let them have a piece of my mind. OK, whatever, Mr. Prince, just let the doves fly and be one your way again. I gotta’ get back to sleep. There’s many miles to travel, and I want to sleep through it all.

Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal. He can be reached at zach@mainstreetnews.com.

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