We love Scotland, and we love the ease of fixing travel and accommodation in one mode – the small campervan. I say small, because apart from motorways, driving on UK roads is stressful in anything larger than a motorbike and sidecar, but camping in one of those is difficult. So, the small European camper was the next best thing, or so I thought. Being almost brand new, it was my introduction to automotive artificial intelligence. The relationship went south rather quickly. It clearly knew everything, and let me know when I tried to ignore it. More bipping alarms than a row of dump trucks going backwards, and the messages that came up on the ‘driver information centre’ all directed me to do something or other. Ignoring it was not a good idea; the relationship was clearly headed toward troubled waters. It wasn’t long before the ‘new information for the driver’ became a rather tart ‘read the driver’s manual before proceeding further’. I have been driving since I was a kid and don’t think I have ever read a driver’s manual – a workshop manual sure, but not how to drive a car.
Such thinking – yes it knew what I was thinking and detected that Robyn was leaning toward doing what it said (two relationships headed south now) – made the little foreigner deeply offended. I am sure it knew I was a headstrong Australian, so it decided to turn this little threat to its intelligence into a defence of National pride.
It knew the moment to strike and I was caught off guard. I mean how careful does one have to be just taking a photo, we were tourists after all. All hell broke loose. I can’t recall the exact sequence but it went something like this: I can’t open the door unless the thing is in park; can’t put it in park unless the brake is on; have to get back in to put the brake on; engine switches off when the brake is on to stop diesel fumes upsetting the atmosphere; can’t get out of the car if the key is still in the ignition; take the key out and the alarm sounds because the window is down to take the photo; can’t get the window up because the key is out of the ignition and alarm is still sounding. Robyn, sick of the alarm tells me to just do what it wants me to … I get mad at that as well as the car. Then she says I am developing a complex about it and it was that comment that convinced me she had been won over by the sneaky little devil. So, not many photos of Scotland. Just kidding. I must say if it was my car the wire cutters would make it more user friendly. Wouldn’t even need a workshop manual for that.
Nearly all the roads on the Scottish islands are single lane with passing places. And, surprisingly, it works rather well. Drivers are so considerate, one notices a car and quickly decides to pull into a passing place or, in response to a flick of lights, drive on, acknowledging their courtesy with a cheery wave. There are exceptions sadly. Drivers of high-performance European cars (no names but they have an ‘M’ and a ‘B’ in them) have an expectation of right-of-way and take it, always without a wave to acknowledge the fact that I reversed to find a place to pull off. Being an easy-going Aussie I wave when they pass, but only one finger.
Probably it was the complex Robyn talked about. When I delivered the camper back in Edinburgh, I left it out of park, the handbrake off, the keys in the ignition, the windows down, a string of instructions on the driver information screen, the bippers all going full blare, and walked away as a man who chooses intelligence of the non-artificial kind. Composed, assured, and confident that his wife will attend to the problems it causes. Intelligent camper, and headstrong to boot. Just kidding, again.