Dear “ECO” Light on the Dashboard of My Car,

At first I thought you were really neat. The manufacturer of my car gave you to me so that I could be more conscious about the amount of petroleum I was consuming. I soon learned that you would only grace my dashboard with your luminescence when I followed a strict regimen of slowly accelerating from stop signs and maintaining a constant pace with no sudden shifts in speed. I thought okay, that’s kind of presumptuous of you, light on the dashboard of my foreign compact sport utility vehicle, which is surely still doing its fair share to contribute to the extinction of fossil fuel. But soon enough, I was able to convince myself that you were just doing your part, and so was I. We were on our way!

You were green and bright and helpful and may have actually increased my gas mileage at times through your indicative lightening and darkening. Sometimes people would ask what you were and I would say, oh, it’s like a game. It only comes on when I’m driving like an environmental warrior. Sometimes people would ask, isn’t that really distracting? I would say, oh no, not at all. Actually, it’s really fulfilling, and it’s saving the environment, and it’s like a game and it’s not distracting at all because really all I want to do is satisfy the ECO light. I just want to keep it happy and on my dashboard where it can silently warm my field of vision with its comforting green glow. It’s like a game. I am at ease. I am helping.

Then one day you wouldn’t turn on.

I didn’t even notice at first. I just assumed you’d always show up, but when my dashboard remained a cold, dark, greenless abyss, I knew something was wrong. I tried everything. I more or less slowed to a stop in the middle of the street with like ten cars behind me. I said okay, nice and slow now… come out little ECO light! I must have crawled from 0 to 10 miles per hour over 25 seconds and a thousand feet. I was ready to put the car in neutral and start pushing before I realized that there was actually a function to “turn you off,” which I had accidently triggered.

When you came back, you looked angry. You were slightly less emerald-field-of-clovers green and a bit more bubbling-poison-cauldron green. You seared on the dashboard accusingly, wondering what sort of anti-environmental travesties I must have committed in your absence. (“You just jack-rabbited out of a dead stop to 35 mph and then slammed on the brakes, five times in a row all the way down Delaware, while having a phone interview to be the new in-house counsel for British Petroleum, didn’t you??”)

In short, I’m more worried than ever now about keeping you happy. I can’t even concentrate on actually driving anymore. I don’t even know how you’re legal. I can barely even look at the road for fear that my default insensitive driving will cause you to turn from green to red, and then morph into a small pictogram of the planet, which breaks open from the Arctic Circle to South Carolina and begins weeping magma out of Lake Erie while nuclear alarm klaxons ring out from my speakers.

I’ve heard that some new cars have like a whole interactive rain forest on their dashboard.

There’s a series of leaves that turn green and the better you drive you build like a whole fucking tree or something. I don’t even know how I’d handle that shit. You might as well just slap a screen in front of my face with a never-ending loop of Pixar movies, give me a joint, and line up a squadron of children with Marfan Syndrome for me to run over because look out world, this car would officially be an out of control child-killing machine sans one sentient operator.

This might be your end-game all along ECO light, because the other day, I swear to Christ, you actually forced my car to slow down from second to first gear on my way to a stop sign. I use “you” loosely here because I don’t know what kind of behind-the-scenes agreements there may be between you and the rest of the automobile, but it certainly appears as though you’ve brokered some sort of alliance with my engine, fuel injector, gas pedal and probably my satellite radio, which was mysteriously tuned to NPR’s Fresh Air when I started my car this morning.

So look, ECO light, or whatever your real name is. (At first I thought “ECOlogical” or “ECOnomical” or “ECOcritical” or “ECOanarchist” but then I realized maybe ECO was no prefix at all but an acronym, perhaps for “Ending Controlled Operation” or “Event Conditioning Organism” or “Eradicating Conscious Opinions.”) No matter who you are, we need to find a way to enter into a healthy relationship whereby I am not overly reliant on your approval to move from one location to the next and whereby you are not being an insufferable fucking distraction, which I have complete power to turn off whenever I want, but obviously will not because I am severely dependent on you to convince myself that I’m saving 12 cents a month in gas and doing my infinitesimally small part to help the environment, which you so boldly profess to champion in your smarmy green couture, while I justify the need to drive my car a mile and a half to my office every weekday.

I think we can work something out. See you on the drive home from work.

Scott Mancuso