Talking to Oni Hartstein About Cars That Don’t Stop

For today’s Friday Chat, I caught up with my friend Oni Hartstein, artist, writer, theme park expert, and co-founder of Intervention, a three-day festival of independently produced creative awesome in the internet age. (I’ve been part of Intervention every year since its founding. This year it’s in Rockville, MD on August 22–24. You should totally go.)

Nicole: Oni, what are you thinking about re: money today?

Oni: Mostly my car. It’s a used car that had a lot of trouble this week. It seems OK now but it makes me nervous. As a self-made artist and convention owner I don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to funding forward momentum. And we both know that when it comes to starting things you need to be able to fund it one way or another.

Nicole: YES this this this.

Oni: Basically I am glad that the car didn’t cost me too much money — this time…

Nicole: So how much did it cost you?

Oni: I’ve been told it’s less than $400 which is good. Harknell is out speaking to the mechanic now.

Nicole: Oh, wait, you mean the repairs. The actual car did not cost you $400. Got it. Still, $400 that you aren’t expecting SUCKS. I would have it in my bank account right now but I would also have to freak out and rearrange all my spending for the rest of the month.

Oni: Yeah — for a short while I wasn’t sure if the entire car was done. The engine had an issue where it was refusing to stop. It accelerated me through a red light and in front of a bus. Apparently computer systems on cars is the standard now — but it can result in dangerous stuff like this. I also have a cracked windshield. Can’t wait to find out how much THAT costs.


Oni: I just bought this used last year — I was afraid that after only 11 months I would need a new car again…

Nicole: This is incredible. I am going to spend the next hour googling car computers because I had no idea. (I have not owned a car since 2008.) So is there some kind of recall or something for your crazy car computer?

Oni: Yep. I am not rich, so this used car had an aftermarket engine in it. I guess when it was installed (so I have been told) there were some issues with the wiring. This resulted in a computer failure. No idea if this was true or not, but that’s what the mechanic said and it at least works now.

Nicole: Ah, got it. So the computer overrides the brakes? And the emergency brake? I know very little about cars. I think I thought the brakes were like bicycle brakes — they forcibly press against the wheel or something.

Oni: Nah, apparently this was just an error. The mechanic said there was some defect in the shape which resulted in wires being crushed. The only way to stop the car was to slide it into neutral and hit the gas. You know — the last thing you would think about doing when your car refuses to obey the brakes.

Nicole: Speed 3: To Stop The Car, Hit The Gas

Oni: My car wasn’t a factory new car so it could have happened at any time when they played with the engine. I thought so too about the brakes — it was so weird. You’d fully brake but the car would accelerate at the same time and push through the brakes. Did not know this was possible!

Nicole: Henry Ford would be so pissed off. Well, best of luck for your car repairs, may they be inexpensive and may the brakes actually work like they’re supposed to!