Blown To Bits

Automated Autocide

Friday, April 17th, 2009 by Harry Lewis

“Autocide.” I just made that up, to mean “killing an automobile.” (To my classicist friends, I do know that’s a hybrid, Greek root and Latin ending.)

My old Volvo (really my daughter’s — she has no place to park it) has had the “check engine” light on for years. Every time the mechanic has checked it, the word comes back the same: “Can’t find anything. Must be the check-engine circuit itself. We could fix it but that would be a waste of money.” And for years the engine has given us no trouble. The car has a few other kinks — an odd noise or two, the odometer stopped at about 135,000 miles several years ago, and it won’t hold an A/C charge — but it’s been a fine second car which I use only for short trips.

I took it to get its annual inspection today, and the mechanic brought it back with the big R sticker on the windshield. What’s wrong? “Check engine light.” “I know,” I protested. “It’s been on for five years and they always tell me there’s nothing wrong with the engine.” “Can’t help you, buddy,” the mechanic says. “They changed the system. These tests are automated now. The computer detects that the check-engine light is on and flunks the car automatically. That’s all there is to say.”

What is there to say? We are the captives of the machines we create to make us safer.

The only consolation, I guess, is that the mechanic didn’t like that sound in the right wheel-well either, and would have flunked me for that anyway. And that probably really is important.

I hear there are some car bargains these days …

2 Responses to “Automated Autocide”

  1. Tyler Moore Says:

    Reminds me of the ‘computer says no’ skit from the TV show ‘Little Britain’:

  2. annex Says:

      /ˈɔtoʊˌsaɪd/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [aw-toh-sahyd] Show IPA
    suicide by crashing the vehicle one is driving.

    *1965–70; auto- 2 + -cide Unabridged
    Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009.
    Cite This Source
    |Main Entry: autocide1
    Part of Speech: n
    Definition: the killing by vehicle crash, esp. use of a vehicle to commit suicide
    Etymology: auto ‘self, one’s own’
    Main Entry: autocide2
    Part of Speech: n
    Definition: a suicide; one who self-destructs
    Etymology: auto ‘self, one’s own’
    Main Entry: autocide3
    Part of Speech: n
    Definition: a chemical created by bacteria that is toxic only to other bacteria of the same species
    Etymology: auto ‘self, one’s own’