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Smart Car
by Doug Hawley

2: Auto Therapy

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Carl called me a couple of days before I got out of the hospital. I was scared shitless because Carl was the one that put me in the hospital. Not only that, but he threatened me as the ambulance picked me up. Based on the caller ID, I didn’t know if I should pull my earlobe to answer the phone, but curiosity got the better of me.

“Duke, I’m so sorry and ashamed about what I did. I know that we have been having our problems, but what I did was way out of line. I’m just hoping that there is some way we can repair our relationship and get back to the way we were. You know, when I told you that I’d be waiting for you to get out, it wasn’t exactly a threat, and it was more ambivalent than that. My feelings are a mess.”

I was really touched. Even though Carl had stopped suddenly slamming me into his dash while withholding the airbags, I too wanted to return to the great rapport that we used to have. What had gone wrong with us?

“Carl, I’ll be out of the hospital soon. How about we discuss this face to grille after I get out? I don’t think that you can visit me here. Some more advanced hospitals have car – human visiting areas, but not this one.”

We had an uncomfortable reconciliation. I started off “Carl, I must admit, I’ve got some blame here too. I haven’t done all that I could to keep our relationship going.”

“Yes, but you haven’t assaulted me, like I did to you.”

“Now that we agree that we are both at fault, what do we do?”

“As far as I know, neither of us has any skills with couples counseling. Why don’t we find a professional?”

“OK, do you have anybody in mind?”

After some whirring, Carl said “I just found a guy that has top credentials and references in car – human relationships. Are you willing to see him?”

“I’m ready, get us an appointment.”

At the appointment, Dr. Box said “All I know so far is that you have problems and want to get back to where you were when you first met. Who wants to go first?”

“I’ll start. When Duke bought me, it was my first relationship with a human and I imprinted on him as baby ducks will do on whatever animal is close. At first, he was so proud of me. Good mileage and good power, if I’m a little immodest. We both loved it when he washed me. That felt so good. We’d take drives and talk. He frequently let me decide where we would go.”

“Things changed. After a couple of years I caught him looking at other cars with what appeared to be lust. I tried to keep myself up to date and good looking for him. That is why I converted to electric propulsion. He went out with girls that insulted my intelligence and soiled my seat covers. Our drives became all business, no pleasure. What hurt worst of all was the time that Duke left me in a locked garage with a bunch of dumb cars. All they wanted to do was talk about “The Kardasians Generation Three”. I wanted to kill myself. Worst of all, before I assaulted him, he was thinking of getting rid of me.”

“I haven’t been an angel. I reacted to his neglect with jealousy and tantrums. I shaded the truth about the girlfriends that I didn’t like. I eavesdropped on his conversations, and as we told you, I ended up assaulting him. We need help.”

“It’s your turn Duke.”

“For better or worse, everything Carl says is true as far as it goes. I have let the relationship grow stale; I’m not putting in the work to keep it fresh. In my defense, Carl has been making insinuations about my masculinity. When he talks about my butt in a man’s voice, it just sounds wrong. Why can’t I have friends besides Carl? He talks to lots of cars; I should be able to hang out with people. Mostly, he shouldn’t frighten me. I only thought of changing cars after he started messing with my attempted sex life.”

“I apologized ten times about that garage incident, and I’ll never do it again.”

Dr Box said “OK, I’ve got enough to go on, and I’ve got some recommendations. Carl, when something is irritating you, talk about it with Duke before flying off the handle. If our laws were more enlightened what you did could be considered domestic violence. You have a right to complain about people that ride in you, but you don’t have the right to choose his friends. If Duke asks you not to eavesdrop, stop listening. Duke doesn’t get to listen in on your conversations with other cars. Now this may be tough, but at least consider becoming Carla. You and I both know that you have enough memory to handle that. After all, sex changes are easier for cars than people, and it would make Duke more comfortable.”

“Now Duke, you could just have some relaxed drives with Carl and just hangout. Or if you want to save electricity, sit in the driveway. I don’t think that it is asking too much for you to personally clean Carl from time to time, given how much he enjoys it. It is your responsibility to see that all of Carl’s passengers respect him. As for your girlfriends, my intuition is that he may have better judgment than you do. Maybe you should listen to him.”

“Do the two of you think that you can do what I’ve recommended and that you both recommit to keeping your bond strong?”

We agreed.

“OK, I hope I don’t have to see you again, but I’m available should you two need a tune-up. Please drop my fee in the slot below my speaker.”

I don’t know about happy ever after, but we’re doing fine now. We sing together and tell jokes. S/he tells car jokes and I tell people jokes. I still date, and it’s gotten better given what Carl/a can do with the vibrating seats. Both my dates and I enjoy them, the only downside is that sometimes the date prefers the seat to me.

Happy days are here again.

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