Monday, November 21, 2011

In a Black Mood - Part 1 of 1

© 2011 by Henry Melton

The Honda Mood was the first car, outside of the labs, that used mood trim. As a geek, I had to have one.
Img: Mycar.jpg Alt: Me and my Honda Mood in front of my apartment

So for about 7 months, my ride was the apex of cool. The technology was simple. I put my hands on the steering wheel and the wide bands of trim on the car changed color according to my mood. 
There was a big PR push, and soon everybody knew that if my black car had red trim, that they'd better keep their distance in traffic, but if it was yellow, then total strangers would wave and smile as we passed each other.
I didn't necessarily agree with the company's color scheme. Green for envy, okay. Gold for lust?  I don't know about that. 
But it didn't take long for the aftermarket companies to offer add-on kits. 
The first time I saw a BMW sedan pass me in traffic with his Joy colors showing from a gadget on his roof like a taxi or a pizza delivery sign, I was confused, and my Mood probably showed a little red.
There were patent lawsuits. But Honda knew which way the money was blowing. The Mood was a great novelty car, but people wanted trunk space and energy economy--as well as a mood flag. So they sold licenses far and wide. 
Soon I was seeing everything from rusty VW Beetles to the latest Lectros, all showing their colors. 
My poor Mood started feeling a little blue in the morning traffic.  At least I was.  I felt like a sucker.  Without the color boost making my drive special, I started paying more attention to the amount of time I had to lean on the pedal to get up to speed on the on-ramp.  My car’s basic color scheme, all black, even the bumpers, soaked up the sun and the AC was howling like a storm, just to keep the insides tolerable on a hot day.
There was a strip of trim that outlined the hood that was my only look at my car's colors.  Two hours ago, it flared green when that jerk's foreign car, all low profile and rumbling more wasted horsepower than my Mood could produce on a good day, pulled across two lanes to wedge in front of me.  Its trim was glaring bright red, and I instinctively slowed to give him some room.
California was pushing that law to make mood stripes mandatory. Supposedly, some university egg-head produced figures showing that traffic accidents dropped in direct relationship to the number of mood-enhanced cars on the road.  It's true I certainly give angry drivers more room.  Generally, I suppose most people paid more attention to the vehicles and the people around them because of the mood colors. 
Then, the angry car turned right, heading for the Mall -- unfortunately, because that was where I was headed as well.  He pulled into the parking spot that I wanted, but I found another one just a few slots later.
The driver of the angry car was taking his time getting out, and as the door opened, I saw why.
The car should not have had red trim, it should have been gold.  Because his passenger ought to turn every guy's car gold.  She was enough to stop me in my tracks.
And the driver’s face certainly didn't look angry either.
He let go of his steering wheel, but the stripes didn't fade.  He reached to the dash and flipped a switch, and then the color died. 
I circled around, partly I admit for the pleasure of watching her walk, but also to get a better look at his car. 
Mood stripes weren't supposed to have any controls. They came on with the engine and faded with it as well. If you took your hands off the wheel, it would show. That was the whole point -- a visible connection to the mood of the driver. 
The car gave an irritated blip when I got too close. I moved back an inch, out of its sensor range.
Up under the GPS screen there was an aftermarket device in chrome with color bars and a slider switch, still sitting on red.  "Mood-Setter" was the label. 
Img: MoodSetter.jpg Alt: Photo through the cheater’s window

There are times when colors don't do my feelings justice. The Mood car was an innovation. The strap-on kits were an homage, the licensing inevitable. 
This hack was an abomination. I was steamed. Various fantasies of destruction flicked through my head, but I couldn't afford the lawsuit or the jail time. 
But I couldn't let this jerk get away with claiming an extra slice of the road by gaming the Mood system, could I?
Video: Interview.mpg Alt: Interview with the driver of the hacked car

JKL - James K. Lesser - Staff editor of the Social OverView
UNK - Unknown driver
Camera pan from car to the approaching couple.  Girl clings to man’s arm while he carries shopping bags labeled with premium label stores.
JKL:  Excuse me, sir.  Is this your fantastic looking car?
UNK: Yep.  Cost me a bundle too.
Camera image waves around.
JKL: I was just taking a phone video of it to share with the viewers on my blog, the Social OverView.  I’m sure they would be interested in some of it’s features.
UNK: Another time maybe.  I have a guest and I don’t want to keep her waiting, if you know what I mean.
JKL: I certainly do.  I just wanted to share this new innovation with the public.  How did you discover this Mood Setter hack that allows you do cheat the other drivers on the highway?
UNK:  What!  Who are you?
JKL: James Lesser of the Social OverView.  When did you decide to game the mood system to make other cars give you more room than you deserve?
UNK: You turn that thing off!  Right now!
JKL: I’m sure the public will want to be on the lookout for cars that attempt to ...
End of video. 

Img: AfterTheInterview.jpg Alt: Interviewer smiling showing black eye, holding phone showing broken faceplate
Update:  Well the Social OverView may never have a week like this again, but it’s certainly been worth it!  The video went viral with over two million hits so far.  The comments quickly identified the driver and his former girlfriend.  Although I am gratified that the public was as offended by this cheating behavior as I was, I will be glad when civility returns to the comment thread.  The whistle blowing has done its job, and the California law is being amended to outlaw “false and misleading” versions of the Mood system.
On a personal note, yes the bruise is fading. I have gotten a replacement phone, and I carry it always.  And my Mood is yellow.

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