Optional extras


As I recall, it was air conditioning and rear-window defrost.

I know it wasnít the cruise control, although that was quite nice.

I donít believe is was the cassette player, to which I later added a cd player mounted in the trunk.

Iím fairly certain it didnít have power windows.

Air conditioning and rear-window defrost. Try as I might to run down other things, thatís what I keep returning to as the musts.

Almost thirty years ago, I was purchasing my first car. It was a Pontiac Grand Am, and to this day of all the cars Iíve owned it remains my favorite.

I was test driving and considering different vehicles, and my requirements were simpleÖ air conditioning and rear-window defrost.

Itís kind of funny, I suppose. Why the debate about options I wanted in my car if Iím so certain about what they were? And the answer is a bit easier to understand than you may believe.

Because times, they change. And it seems like there could have been something else involved. In a world where floor mats do not always come standard, itís worth a few minutes of reflection to recreate the events.

A cassette player? You canít even find a car for sale these days with one as an optional extra, never mind as a standard piece of equipment. But back then, even with CDs on the market, it was a pretty cool thing to find already in the car.

Funny thing, those changes. I still enjoy air conditioning. And I like having a rear-window defrost that works. Good stuff. But they arenít all that impressive. Pretty much given that theyíll both be installed on every vehicle.

The other day, I was sitting in the car, waiting for Terry to finish up something. And I had the window of the car open. She came out, I started the car and turned on the AC. And, rolled up the window. And thatís what got me thinking.

The car itself isnít all that impressive. So unimpressive that I wonít even bother mentioning the make or model to you. And yet the car has two of the most amazing features Iíve ever come across. Both of them are found on the driverís door. Both of them I never gave a single thought during the process of buying it.

The first one is an automatic window. I know what youíre thinkingÖ nothing significant there. Almost all power windows on the driverís door will go down with the quick flick and release of a switch. True enough. But, to my knowledge, this is the only car I have ever driven where the window will also go back up automatically after a flick and release. No holding the button down to close the window (unless you really want to).

The second feature is lit switches. Have you ever been driving at night and needed to do something with one of those switches? Raise a window? Unlock the doors? Something where you looked down toward that armrest only to seeÖ wellÖ in the darkness, only to see nothing. In this car, the switches light up.

These days, keyless entry and keyless ignition have arrived. USB ports are taking over for cigarette lighters. CD players will soon join cassette players in retirement. Satellite radio and GPS and all sorts of wonderful gadgets are around, and most with touch screens built into the dashboard. And here I am, praising a power window and buttons with lights.

Thereís a belief that the greatest invention of all time is the wheel. And as discoveries and creations go, the wheel is a good one. A great one, in fact. Still, most people today would look at the wheel as fairly basic and ordinary. Itís common. Even ordinary. We do take them for granted. (At least until theyíre flat. Which reminds us of their importance.)

Am I comparing a window that goes up and down with the invention of the wheel? No. Of course not. Just an observation about how simple things can make stronger connections than the wildest of possibilities.

Over the years, Iíve had certain beliefs when it comes to major purchases. I always want a second bathroom in any house. Always consider needs when deciding what type of car to check out. If you would have told me when I was preparing to drive off the lot in my Grand Am that decades later Iíd be considering the armrest on the driverís door to show you some of my favorite features though, I never would have believed you.

Turns out, function can be every bit as exciting as flash.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com