Am I seriously low?

Ed Rood

More than 65 years have passed since I first started “legally” driving. To be truthful, there were also a couple of years before when I would get behind the steering wheel of an automobile illegally. (Most of those occasions are best left untold.) With all that experience it’s hard to imagine how frustrating driving has now become for me. Especially this time of year. 

Ed Rood

Let me explain.

My wife Sharon and I own two recent model cars. They are nothing fancy but each is equipped with features that someone, somewhere, has determined necessary for our safety. Extras that we did not order. Of course, I am not foolish enough to think that the someone who determined these features necessary for me to have actually paid for them. Those features were systematically added to the price of our automobiles without our approval.

One of them really bugs me.

The safety feature I’m referring to isn’t the seat belts, air bags or the windshield washers. No, it’s the TPMS.

“What the heck is the TPMS?” you are probably asking. Well, it stands for Tire Pressure Monitoring System and it is – to put it mildly – the most aggravating glowing orange “telltale” I have ever been forced to put up with.

“So what the heck is a telltale?” you are now probably asking. Well, telltales are the little warning signs that appear on the instrument panel of your automobile to warn you that something is amiss.

Anyway, when the weather outside gets chilly, a little telltale pops up on the instrument panel of each of our cars. It sort of looks like a cutaway of a car tire with a huge exclamation mark in the center. It emerges each fall just like clockwork and it won’t go away. So I stop the car, get out and look at each and every tire. I am no expert but they always look like tires containing plenty of air.

What do I do? I drive over to visit my friend Fred Mason who owns Mason’s Standard in Slater. He is my tire expert.

Fred will smile as he reaches in his pocket for his handy, dandy tire pressure checker. He will then walk around the car adding a pound or two of air to the tires ... if they need it. “No big deal,” he says. I’m probably not the first one to stop by that day and I won’t be the last. 

“Just another bright idea from Detroit we have to live with,” he explains, “it’s nothing to worry about.”

I’m sure that telltale will show itself in our cars again this fall. I’m lucky. I have Fred on my side. He takes care of those obnoxious little signs with a pound or two of air and I go on my way. But it still bothers me, so I looked up TPMS in the owner’s manual: “As an added safety feature your vehicle has been equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system that illuminates a low tire pressure telltale when one or more of your tires is significantly under-inflated. Accordingly, when the low tire pressure telltale illuminates you should stop and check your tires as soon as possible and inflate them to the proper pressure ...”

Of all the words used in the explanation the ones I found the most interesting were “significantly under-inflated.” Significant means serious, crucial, exceptional, momentous. I find one or two pounds of air not nearly hazardous enough to qualify as serious, crucial, exceptional or momentous.

But then again, I’m an old fogey who, admittedly, is a bit too grouchy. 

Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.