So here’s something that I’ve wanted to talk about for a while now. As an employee of Johnson and Johnson, I’m part of a field clinical force. I am expected to drive long distances, each day, to and from separate hospitals in the NJ/ NYC area. As such, I am issued a company car. This would be a good thing, but I think my particular car is designed to kill me and is possibly haunted.
At Johnson and Johnson, we have a fleet of cars that are approved for use for our field representatives. There’s all sorts of makes and models ranging from unassuming Toyota compacts to fully loaded Volvo SUV s. We don’t pay for gas, maintenance, insurance or anything else associated with operating a motor vehicle. We only have to pay a modest sum each month (I believe it’s about $130 a month, but don’t quote me on that) for these privileges. It creates a scenario where it is inefficient to have a personal car. The idea is that this company car becomes our only car. We win, obviously, because this is a huge cost savings over operating and maintaining our own vehicles. The company wins by preventing lost work hours due to crashes and injury because its employees are operating vehicles that have been vetted and are supposedly safe; e.g. we are not operating (and potentially crashing) fiberglass sports cars or older, more unsafe cars. The company also wins because we are driving vehicles that are “on the grid” and they can track our activities and whereabouts in true “Big Brother” fashion.
Guess I can’t use my company car for running blow out of Juarez anymore.
Employees who have been with the company for a bit get to select the car that they have, but the very first car a new field representative is given is an issued car. That means there is no choice in the first vehicle one receives as a newly-minted field based employee. That’s where I found myself about two years ago; being issued a car I had no say in. I had gingerly sold my 2008 Honda Accord (the nicest car I’ve ever owned) and was eagerly awaiting my company car. On a crisp March morning in 2014, an elderly gentleman drove my new company car to my house, handed me the keys, got into his wife’s car (which had dutifully followed him to my apartment) and left me with my only vehicle I would use for the next two years of my life.
Enter the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.
It is, without a doubt, the most unsafe thing I’ve ever driven. That’s a statement, isn’t it? I’d like to put that into context for you now. I was originally trained in the army as an armor officer. That means that I’ve driven tanks. I’m assuming you don’t know much about tanks so here’s the CliffNotes. Main battle tanks are 60 ton instruments of war that only do one thing… murder.
Lots and lots of murder.
Tanks are so singularly focused toward killing that they excel to a fault. A tank can kill its own crew just as fast as it can kill the enemy. While operating a tank, a misplaced hand can end in permanent mutilation. Trying to move from the hull to the turret while a tank is in operation will lead to a closed-casket funeral because you were fucking sheared in half. Even doing something you’re supposed to do, like firing the main gun while inside a tank is like experiencing a low speed car crash due to the concussive force. You get the idea. They’re dangerous.
The 2013 Chevy Malibu is more dangerous to me than this. Where a tank is deliberately and overtly designed to be dangerous, the Malibu is subtle in its trickery. For instance, the front of the vehicle offers a clear and open view. One would say to oneself, “Wow, this is pretty nice. I have a good, safe field of view while operating this vehicle.” The rear and side views, on the other hand, are almost non-existent. You can’t see out of the back or sides of this car. The trunk is so high, that a three foot tall child would have to be a full thirty feet behind the vehicle to be seen in the rear view mirror. “Well underwhelmer, why don’t you use the side mirrors?” I hear you ask. Well, super observant reader, I’ll tell you why. They’re smaller than my fucking hands and show me next to nothing, that’s why. I don’t have traditional blind spots. I have whole dark sectors in this car.
Because I can only see out of the front of the vehicle, I have been in countless near-misses. Every commute to work is transformed from a leisurely drive to a white-knuckle, harrowing experience in this car. I’ve changed lanes directly into cars that were right there, but completely invisible in my mirrors and blocked by the rear structures inside the car. I’ve backed directly into other cars and objects that were completely unseen in my mirrors and back-up camera.
I almost forgot… the backup camera. This thing is so goddamn bad, I’ve stopped looking at it because it’s so misleading. First off, it’s off-centered, i.e. it’s not placed directly in the center of the rear bumper. Secondly, it has no proximity alarm or distance measurements on the screen. To top it all off, it’s a severe fish-eye lens camera. Meaning, only objects that are about three feet away and directly in front of the camera are visible.
Chevy, you guys really phoned it in on this one.
One of my favorite personal features is the light-up touchscreen console. It’s a small 8”x5” screen in the middle of the dash that controls the radio and not much else. The console displays an illuminated Chevrolet logo when the radio isn’t on in case you’ve forgotten who manufactured your car. This isn’t too bad during the day, but at night it blazes brightly like the North Star. It is unreasonably bright and it can’t be turned off. That’s right, you read correctly.
It. Can’t. Be. Turned. Off.
I thought I had outsmarted it one day when I discovered that there was a hidden compartment behind this touchscreen. A small switch flips the touchscreen up to reveal small storage area that is cruelly illuminated by an even brighter light.
This makes driving at night problematic. Because this screen is always on and facing me, my eyes can never truly adjust to night-time conditions. Unsurprisingly, I’ve nearly hit countless things at night that I would’ve been able to see in any other vehicle. This isn’t even the worst part though. Because the interior of my car is lit up like Times Square, my face is also bathed in light while I’m driving. I get pulled over about every three days because police officers think I’m on my phone while driving. I’ve had to explain why my car sucks so many times to separate police officers that I feel like it’s my elevator speech for a job interview. Often times, they don’t believe me and I challenge them to find a way to turn it off. One took me up on the offer and after about three minutes of fiddling with the console (he also discovered the sick joke that is the hidden compartment light) he laughed and told me that my car is “badly made.” I was let go without further incident. To date I haven’t gotten a ticket, but it’s only a matter of time before I do. There are other fantastic features of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu that I haven’t covered yet.
Another choice design feature is that they’ve placed the turn signal indicator switch a full five inches from the steering wheel. That means that I have to take one hand off the wheel to activate a turn signal. I can’t think of any reason why this is. It just is.
Also, there’s no trunk release button inside the car. There’s one on the key FOB, but it won’t work from inside the vehicle. You have to turn the car off, get out and use the key FOB to open the trunk. I don’t know what happens when the key FOB runs out of battery. I guess you just don’t have access to the trunk anymore.
At this point, I’d like to prove to you guys that I’m not making this up. Here’s some real photos from inside the car.
All of this is pretty terrible and weird for a car, but the strangest feature of all in the 2013 Malibu’s menagerie of bad features is a Bono poltergeist. My car comes with a random and unwavering association with U2. Let me explain…
I don’t listen to the radio because there aren’t any stations that play the music that I like. I use the Bluetooth in my car to listen to Pandora from my phone. Most of the time this works out fine, but every couple of days the Malibu decides to play U2 when I first start the car up. Here’s the weird part, I don’t like U2. I’ve never saved or liked any of their songs on my phone, computer or other devices. I don’t have a U2 station. I don’t even have music that’s remotely similar to U2 at all.
I don’t know where the fuck it’s getting these songs from and it scares me a little.
One day, I decided to see how long it would play U2. I thought to myself, “Maybe it’s just a demo or filler song? It can’t possibly keep this up forever.”
Yes it fucking can. It plays an entire U2 album over and over and over again.
If Satan didn’t make this car, he was at least consulted during the design process because I refuse to believe that a team of professional car makers were paid to deliberately construct this thing. Also, side note, I think Satan is a big U2 fan.
This is a car that, if it were shown to me at a dealership by a sales rep, I would sit in it, look around and go, “Nope. I’d like to see something that’s less insane.”
It just blows my mind that upper management from a major automotive manufacturer all sat down and said, “Yup, all of this is a good idea. Let’s make thousands of these things.” Once they were done with that, I can only assume they went to go do what I imagine the wealthy and powerful do to celebrate…
Slather themselves in the blood of the poor and form a nude dancing circle around a bonfire of money.
What’s more is that our people from J&J said, “Fuck yes, this car makes my private areas happy and tingly. Let’s give this car to hundreds of employees.”
At first, I tolerated all of my misgivings about the car because I thought I was being a brat. After about a year of nearly crashing every single day, I thinks it’s clearly gone beyond me being a spoiled brat and transformed into a safety issue. It’s gotten so bad, that I’ve sent formal written complaints about the car. I’ve requested and pleaded for any other car. So far, my requests have been ignored.
It looks like my trusty steed, Bono and I will be traversing the metro area for the foreseeable future. Pray for me because I think my luck is going to run out eventually.
P.S. After writing this, I did some research and found out that my car randomly uses an auto-play feature that accesses my iTunes on my phone. U2 just gave away their album, Songs of Innocence, to every iTunes user at the end of 2014. I logged onto my iTunes account (for the first time ever) and found that I too have this album. I didn’t ask for it. I just have it.
P.P.S. Another thing that’s weird… I’ve never logged onto my iTunes account while connected to the car’s Bluetooth and I’m not sure how my car is accessing, let alone playing, this album on a constant loop. I think the Bono haunting scenario is still the most reasonable explanation. Also, bit of a complaint tangent here, FUCKING TELL SOMEONE, U2, WHEN YOU RANDOMLY ADD YOUR MUSIC TO THEIR LIVES. I’VE SPENT THE PAST YEAR AND A HALF THINKING THAT I’M SLOWLY LOSING MY MIND, YOU DICKS.