Driving in a Flattened World

It occurred to me the other day after purchasing a new vehicle

that the world just continues to flatten in interesting little ways. It is interesting how once you have read Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century, you begin seeing little examples of his main points all over the place. Actually- what is really happening is as simple as me making continual connections to what I have read. OK, confession time: I didn’t really read it. But I certainly did listen to it. Twice.

This new auto purchase was a fun one. As a second car for around-the-town driving, we bought a 2008 Scion xB. The purchase experience on this one was interesting. These cars arrive at the dealership differing only in color. The purchaser is then free to choose from a plethora of options and add-ons to customize the car. I added a ton of things, including leather interior, which wasn’t even a dealer option for this car. Looks great, doesn’t it?

Sure, you can buy a new Scion xB for less than seventeen thousand. Once you add fancy wheels, tires, leather, spoiler, etc., you end up with a car that costs a bit more. However, what struck me as most interesting yesterday deals with what you do get for $17,000. It is important to note that this car is aimed at the 20-something market. So that either makes me hip and with it, or pathetic. Im really not too concerned which. This car makes too much sense. With one fifteen-month-old and another on the way, we need a car that is really easy to get into and out of kiddie seats. It also fits a ton of stuff in the back even with kiddies in the back seat

You be thinking, “get a minivan idiot”. This is where I stop you. We won’t be making a purchase like that for two reasons. One: I care a bit more about design and aesthetics than that. And two: I refuse to buy a car that gets less than 30 MPG on the highway. Rolling around in giant roomy vehicles that burn gas at irresponsible levels is just not something that makes me feel like a big boy. “Then buy a hybrid, Mr. Green“, you say. And I say hold on there one minute turbo. This is a compromise. I’ll let others pay the extra $$ to get in on the beginning of that technology. I already spend enough extra being an early adopter of computer & communications gadgetry.

So how does all of this car mumbo jumbo bring about the flat world reference? To steal a line from Daniel Tosh, “hold on… I’ll feed you baby birds”.

This relatively cheap vehicle ships with one very interesting little piece of standard technology. All Scion vehicles (made by Toyota) ship with full iPod integration standard. This means that even someone rolling out of the dealership without one single added option will roll out able to snap their iPod into the stereo in less than about two seconds. I have used my iPod in the car for about the past three years now. However, this was achieved through the connection of an FM transmitter which allowed me to play the outgoing iPod signal on my FM stereo. The negatives of that setup are pretty well documented.

In the Scion, once you plug the iPod in, you never again touch it. The controls on the dash, as well as on the steering wheel itself, run the iPod remotely. The Scions are certainly not the first cars to feature full iPod integration, though I would bet they just might be the cheapest that do. The first car in which I remember seeing iPod integration was a BMW. Finally we see connectivity for the masses.

What this means is that not only do you get to cruise along listening to whatever tunes you have stuffed inside your little iPod, but you also bring along podcasts and audiobooks. This is where my geek will stick out like a sore thumb, but what this turns the xB into is a rolling, integrated learning tool. Even in trips across town for groceries you can take in a 60 Second Science Podcast!

So no… I didn’t read Friedman’s book. My wife (and baby) and I listened in the car on the way to a Minnesota fishing trip last summer. However, once I sat in this new car, I felt compelled to run The World is Flat over the stereo once again.

Sean Nash

District Online Learning Coordinator (eCampus) in a large public district of over thirty individual schools. Most recently, a district instruction coordinator. Biology instructor since 1993. Find more about my passions and my work at http://nashworld.me

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