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Tony Kornheiser

If You Need a New Way to Pamper Yourself, Here's One for the Road

November 01, 2000|Tony Kornheiser

What separates man from the lower animals?

Concierge service, baby.

("Concierge" is from the French, which translated loosely means, "For a good time, call Babette.")

They have it in hotels. They have it in law firms. They have it in office buildings. They have it in high-end health clubs.

And now it's in my car.

I recently bought a car that came with a year of free "On Star." That's one of those global-positioning deals that directs you when you're lost, or you have an emergency--like you'd kill for a tall skim decaf latte with extra foam and a shot of vanilla.

To activate the service, I press a button on the console attached to my rear-view mirror. There are three buttons: The one on the left has a plain white dot; the one in the middle says "On Star"; the other one has a red cross. So to activate On Star, I pressed I, the one with the white dot! Sometimes I have the IQ of a ficus.

Nothing happened. Duh. (God knows what I was waiting for; someone to shout, "Whasssuppp"? It turns out the white button is the "off" button. Who knew?) So I pressed the "On Star" button. The next thing I heard was a voice saying, "What can I do for you, Mr. Kornheiser?"

This was an actual person calling me in my car!

You press, your fairy godmother answers.

"It's like somebody up in heaven watching out for Mr. Tony," my friend Nancy said.

The other day I was showing off my On Star to Nancy, and I pressed the magic button.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Kornheiser?"

The voice identified herself as Tamara. But in an instant her signal faded.

I pressed again.

"You've reached On Star. All available advisors are assisting other callers. Please remain on the line."

At least nobody said, "Your call is very important to us. In the meantime, please continue to enjoy selections from 'The Very Best of Yanni.' " But what if I'd been in an accident and my car was on fire? By the time they got to me, I'd be . . .

"Toast," Nancy offered.

Fortunately, Debbie came to my rescue.

"Can you pinpoint where I am?" I asked. (And don't be a wise guy and say, "In your car.")

"I'm showing you in Washington, D.C." Debbie said. "Let me zoom in . . . I see you on . . . 15th Street Northwest?"

Wow. Right on the money. I should have asked, "Where do you see me in five years?"

"Can you see that there's a woman in the car with me?" I asked Debbie.

"No, but I'll bet she's quite good-looking."

Yeah, right. Like they can pinpoint your car from 5,000 miles away, but they can't see who's there with you. Like they can't see every move you make. Like they don't sit around watching you and whoever doing whatever you're doing in there. Give me a break.

I asked Debbie what level of service I had. I feared a Doomsday Concierge Scenario: Like, I'd pack up the whole family to go visit more colleges for Elizabeth, and by the time we hit Franklin & Marshall I'd realize--I forgot my son Michael! If I called On Star and asked them to pick him up in a limo, would they say to me, "I'm terribly sorry Mr. Kornheiser, but you have 'Economy' On Star. That option comes with DeVille, not Catera."

Here's what I've got: On Star will make hotel and restaurant reservations for me while I'm driving. They'll get me tickets to plays, concerts and sporting events.

The red button is in case something catastrophic happens--like my hair plugs get caught in the moon roof.

I have "air-bag notification." If my air bag deploys, Debbie will know. (I asked if I had "old-bag notification" as well, where a buzzer would sound if I started making out with some 50-year-old floozy in my back seat.) I have "remote diagnostic." If the "Check Engine" light comes on, they can tell me if it's a real emergency, or if it's OK to drive 9,000 more miles like cab drivers in New York City do.

Most of all, though, I can't tell you how great it is to hear somebody say, "What can I do for you, Mr. Kornheiser?" At home, I never hear that. At home I hear, "Dad, tell the little freak to give me the clicker."

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