driving stock

Enough!  I've had it!  I can't take it anymore! This small object the size of a tiny tin of Altoid mints is trying to control my life.   

I'm talking about the device I attached to the windshield  of my car in exchange for a discount on my auto insurance. The innocent-looking thin white plastic square hides behind my rearview mirror so that I'll forget it's there. Forget that it's hiding, lurking, stalking, spying and recording my every move.  A constant critic, an ever-present fault-finder, taking digital notes and reporting me to his superiors at the Company.   At best, he's a tattletale, a snitch. In reality, he is a 3x3 traitor. 

It's partially my fault. I not only accepted this miniature Trojan Horse into my car, I invited it.  I actually requested this invader to be sent to me.  The Company already gave it a name--Beacon.  I've given him a different name that also starts with a "b."  

Beacon is like one of those characters you see in a horror film that initially is a welcome guest in the family home. A thoughtful neighbor, an adopted child, a friend from high school passing through town, a psychiatry internist living downstairs in the room rented out to local med school students. At first things seem fine, mostly pleasant.  Sure, there's something slightly off and odd about them, but we all have our quirks, right? And then things get even more strange... and little frightening.  

When I opened the package containing Beacon how did I not notice the foreboding background music with its sudden chord change? When the app on my phone said, "You are now activated," did I not hear the distant cackle? 

And then there's the feedback. Beacon doesn't mind sharing and shaming you with the same daily report they send to the Company.  I receive comments like: 

  • You were doing 51 mph in a 45 mph zone on Franklin Road. 

  • You made a sharp turn onto Buckner Lane. 

  • You did not come to a slow stop at 4-way intersection at Liberty Pike. 

That's right, Beacon knows and reports exactly where you are and what you're doing: 

  • You really zipped into that parking space at the wine store on McEwen Boulevard. That's the second time you've arrived at this location in five days. Do you have a drinking problem?  

  • Your third visit to the gym this week. Excellent. Maybe next week you can do something other than watch TV from a slow treadmill.  

  • You didn't "squeeze the lemon" at the stoplight on Mack Hatcher. That was "squashing the tomato."  

Oh that's nothing. The comments have become even snarkier than that. Actually aggressive at times. 

  • Next time, try taking that turn on two wheels, why don't ya? 

  • You were following that Lexus so closely it resembled two Mayflies during mating season. 

  • Well, you sure made a beeline for Kripsy Kreme after work again today. Still trying to eat your problems instead of facing them?  

  • You looked down at your phone when that text came in from the office, didn't you? Don't lie to me!  I don't care if you're at a dead stop on the highway in a 3-hour traffic jam; if you ever just touch your phone again while your engine is on, I swear I'll short-circuit your Camry's entire electrical system. 

The specificity of the feedback makes me wonder just how much the Company knows: 

  • You accelerated from the stoplight faster than recommended for someone your age with your recent vision exam results and cholesterol level.  

  • That was a rather liberal interpretation of "Yield to Oncoming Traffic," Mr. Presson.  However, we probably shouldn't be surprised given your recent voting record and your 2008--2022 social media posts regarding Supreme Court nominees. 

  • You did not use your blinker before changing lanes on a completely deserted highway after 11 p.m. This was an ill-advised maneuver on the part of someone with your college transcripts and relationship history. 

And I'm not the only complaining customer: 

Margie Gufferston of Spokane, Washington said, "It's like driving with the DMV driving instructor from hell." 

Ashley Smertzblocker of Tampa, Florida said, "My mother was a high school English teacher and was always correcting my grammar. The Beacon emotionally triggers that childhood trauma."   

Rodney Fishburn of Rochester, New York commented: "If I wanted to have someone in my car constantly nagging me about my driving, I would've stayed married."  

Let me go! 

I believe the Company knows that drivers will revolt against the Beacon. In fact, I'm sure they're counting on it.  Do you believe the Company actually wants to give its drivers a discount which reduces insurance rates and thus Company profits? Instead the Company execs are counting on their agents getting phone calls like mine: 

Ramon:  Please, disconnect my Beacon, I beg you. I tried. I deleted the app. I held the Beacon device underwater for seven minutes and then beat it with a hammer. It's still working and sending me threatening messages.  When my neighbor wasn't looking I stuck my Beacon to the inside of his truck's front bumper. The next morning it was attached to my windshield again. On Wednesday I threw it in a dumpster at a truck stop. Hours later it was sitting on my dashboard. I can't take it anymore! Please, I'll do anything. Just free me from the Beacon. I don't care about the discount. It's not worth it. I just want my life back.  I'll even pay 10 percent above my regular rate. Make it 20 percent. I'll pay 20 percent extra each month for car insurance... 

Agent: Thank you, Mr. Presson; that's what we love to hear from our satisfied customers.

Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage & family therapist in Franklin,  (www.ramonpressontherapy.com)  the author of multiple books, and a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He can be reached at [email protected].