The Talking Car

“No matter what your heartache may be, laughing helps you forget it for a few seconds.“–Red Skelton (1913-1997) radio and TV comedian.

My wife, Sena, and I saw the car commercial aboe recently, which reminded us of an old Chrysler New Yorker we once owned back when I was in medical school. What that BMW seems to do doesn’t hold a candle to what our New Yorker did.

The car actually talked to us and it was called the Electronic Voice Alert (EVA). We had pet name for New Yorker, but it wasn’t Eva. We can’t remember it, so I’ll just have to call it Eva here. But it was a chatterbox:

Eva itself could malfunction and she sometimes drove us crazy. I remember driving the New Yorker to all of my interviews for residency programs in psychiatry, which stretched from Iowa and Missouri with stops on the way out to Ohio. It was during the month of December of 1991 and it dumped snow on me on the way back. I got stuck at a roadside rest stop with a lot of other travelers in a snowstorm.

My wife and I didn’t have cell phones back then. We’ve had the flip phone models since a snowstorm in Iowa City in late 2007. That’s right. We still don’t own smartphones. So I called Sena from a pay phone. She was pretty worried, but I was confident that Eva could make it.

I waited for the blizzard to slow down and hit the road. As I crept along, I wondered aloud about the Ohio residency program, saying, “Could I hack it in Cincinnati ?” And I swear, Eva answered,

“The Chair wears a beard.”

Me: “I know that. What’s that got do with the program?”

Eva: “Don’t forget the dog and pony show.”

Me: “So the residents put on a little music show for the candidates. What’s wrong with that?”

Eva: “Nasrallah might be packing heat.”

Me: “Relax, not everybody who looks tough is a gangster. I wonder if I could hack it at Wash U.”

Eva: “Guze is ahead of his time.”

Me: “Tell me about it.”

Eva: “The food is too rich in St. Louis.”

Me: “Yeah, and I’m trying to shed a few pounds.”

Eva: “Don’t forget George Winokur.”

Me: “He’s at Iowa. How could I forget him?”

Me: “I’ll never forget the psychiatrist who interviewed a group of us in Ann Arbor. He actually pointed his finger at me and, in front of all the candidates, criticized Iowa’s program for being too biological!

Eva: “The bore was a jerk.”

Me: “Don’t be so hard on the guy, Eva. The competition for residents is keen. Speaking of keen, Indianapolis has a pretty strong program.”

Eva: “The Indy 500 is there.”

Me: “I won’t have time for that.”

Eva: “Don’t forget your roots.”

Me: “You’re so right, Eva. My heart is in Iowa.”

Eva: “Your number of choices is low.”

Me: “Can I help it if I don’t trust you to hold out if I drive all over the country to more than a dozen programs?”

Eva: “Your confidence in me is low.”

Me: “Don’t go there.”

Eva: “More choices are required.”

Me: “Look, I’m in charge here.”

Eva: “Your narcissism is on.”

Me: “Maybe I should just disconnect you, Eva.”

Eva: “Dave…please…stop…Dave…will you?”

Me: “That was just a movie, so you can stop.”

Eva: “Your impatience is overheating.”

Me: “Your meddling is getting out of hand. Where I do my residency is my decision. You’re only an electronic gadget.”

Eva: “Prompt apologies are required.”

Me: “OK, OK. I’m sorry.”

Eva: “Thank you.”

Sometimes I wonder if Eva was right. But those times are rare.

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