“Open this door. Right now. I mean it! Open the damn door!” Herbert kicked the car door in frustration. “Honey, will you please tell the car to open the door?” he asked through clenched teeth.

Herbert’s wife, Alice, peered up at him through the driver’s side glass from her seat on the passenger’s side. “I don’t think she will, darling,” she told her husband. “I think she’s upset about something.”

“She? This is not a she. This is my car. I bought and paid for it. Its purpose is to take me where I want to go, not get us lost in the middle of nowhere and then refuse to let me back in!”

“Step away from the car.” The mechanical female voice somehow managed to sound annoyed even through its programmed sugary sweetness.

“Honey, can’t you at least try to empathize with her?” Alice pleaded. “I think she’s trying to tell us something.”

“I don’t care what the car is trying to tell us!” Herbert shouted, thoroughly exasperated. “The only thing I want my car to tell me is which direction I am driving and what the weather is!”

“Caution! Your oil is low,” the car told him caustically. Alice pouted from inside.

“Herbert, we bought a smart car for a reason. She has feelings too. Maybe you aren’t taking care of her properly,” Alice said pointedly.

“I’ve gone in for all the scheduled maintenance,” Herbert protested, wondering why he felt on the defensive against both his wife and his car.

“Warning! A seatbelt is undone,” the car seemed to growl, and Alice crossed her slim arms across her chest.

“See, Herbert? She is trying to tell us that she feels unsafe. It’s not right of you to ignore her concerns.”

“Concerns?” Herbert nearly exploded, but with clenched fists, he managed to calm down. Deep breaths, he told himself. Deep breaths. “All right,” he said at last, through clenched teeth. “All right. Car. If I promise to bring you in to the dealer as soon as we get home for a check-up and hot wax, will you please open this door?”

The car rumbled suspiciously. “And an oil change,” Alice prompted.

“And an oil change,” Herbert agreed, trying very hard not to scream.
The car hesitated for a moment more, then grudgingly unlocked the driver’s side door. Herbert stomped in and closed it, settling into his seat with a disgruntled air.

“There, sweetie. That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Alice cooed. Herbert couldn’t tell whether she was talking to him or his car.

“Damn it,” Herbert muttered to himself as he started the car. “That’s it. To hell with cars. Next midlife crisis, I’m buying a dog.”