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  • Writer's pictureJim Pfiffer

I Love My New Truck, but It’s Too Smart for Me

Weekly humor column by Jim Pfiffer, Elmira, NY

Technology is great, but I long for the days when I was smarter than my truck.

I bought a new 4WD Toyota Tacoma pickup truck two years ago, and I’m still trying to learn the purpose of the scores of switches, buttons, knobs, levers, dials, gauges, meters, lights, vents and portals. The truck’s dashboard is called an “instrument cluster” (sounds like a candy bar, to me), and bristles with more electronics than the Space Shuttle. It overwhelms with flashing lights, buzzers, bells, multi-information displays, and enough menus to open my own restaurant.

I don’t know what most of them do.

It tells me when I’m due for a tune-up, tire rotation, oil change and haircut, and has more microphones and speakers than a recording studio.

There are so many options that I have three owner’s manuals, and some of the pages are written in other languages, requiring me to hire a United Nations translator to help me find the fuse box.

One of the manuals recommends that I learn about the truck’s functions by watching a 30-minute Tacoma video or calling my dealer for instructions. See what technology has wrought? I have to take an online course, study with a dealership tutor and spend my spare time reading manuals in order to enjoy my truck. Doesn’t make sense.

The manuals require a lot of cross-referencing, repeated visits to the glossary, and fist-pounding frustration when I don’t know the name of the part or function, I’m trying to look up.

I tried to find the wattage for one of the two interior lights on the overhead console. It took me 10 minutes to discover that the light is called a “front personal lamp.” By the time I found it, the bulb on the other light had burned out.

The truck has radar in case I want to track incoming enemy fighters. I’m searching through the manuals to see if it also has sonar or a Tomahawk missile system.

I discovered an automatic “garage door opener switch” on the console. I keep pushing it, but my garage doors don’t open. Maybe it’s because they are “lift-by-hand' doors.

According to the manuals, the truck also has several functions that I haven’t used because I don’t know what they do: “active traction,” “crawl control,” “slip indicator” and “jettison external solid-fuel boosters.”

With all those buttons, I constantly fear that I might push the wrong button by mistake and my transmission will fall out or the passenger seat will eject my wife out the window.

One time I pushed the wrong buttons and dimmed all the lights on my dashboard making it difficult to see what I was supposed to see. I spent hours going through the manual trying to discover how to rectify the problem but was unsuccessful. Truth: I had to drive the truck to the dealer, and the manager and a technician spent 20 minutes figuring out how to make the lights bright again.

My truck has more warning lights and alarms than a nuclear reactor operations center, and they tell me when a door is ajar, a seat belt isn’t buckled, or my fly is open.

My instruments are decorated with tiny stick-figure people and icons that are supposed to be recognizable worldwide. My cluster is decorated with lightning bolts, skid marks, sunbeams, and what appears to be a tiny stick man sitting on a toilet. I will NEVER EVER press that button. I put a piece of duct tape over it. Can’t be too careful.

The manuals list all the functions and options available on all Tacoma models. I don’t know which ones I have and which ones I don’t. The manuals list a “brake override system,” a “BSM outside rearview mirror indicator,” and a “longitudinal and lateral inclination indicator.” I’m inclined to believe that I don’t care about my truck’s longitude or latitude, but I do care about its attitude, especially when it gets stubborn and locks the doors without permission or locks one door and not the other, depending on its mood, I guess.

When it’s in a really foul mood, the truck makes it difficult for me to use the driver’s seat shoulder harness. I’ll try to pull the harness across my chest, but it keeps stopping short, and I have to play the “yank and tug” game until it surrenders, and it lets me pull it smoothly across my chest and buckle it. I get mad, during this tug of war, and angrily jerk at the belt, trying to show it who is boss, but to no success. By the time I’m buckled in I’m in full road rage mode before I even leave my driveway.

Friggin’ technology.

I expect it will take me several more years to learn about all my truck’s functions and options.

That will give me the rest of my life to figure out how to reset the truck clock back to daylight savings time and program my Sirius radio stations.

Jim Pfiffer’s humor column is posted every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page and Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper. Contact him at


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