In the 2000 Toyota Avalon, the year is 2002, not because the Chamber of Secrets came out, Avril Lavigne entered the music scene or the camera phone became mainstream, but because the car’s calendar stops at 2018, forcing owners to either find a year with matching weekdays or be annoyed by their dashboard display for the rest of eternity—an eternity the Avalon obviously didn’t plan for.
During our first Sunday lunch of the year last month, my father-in-law walked up to my husband and I, eager to tell a story—a rare occurrence, since the men in my husband’s family, including my husband, don’t talk much. When he got into his 2000 Avalon on New Year’s Day earlier that week, he said, it wasn’t Jan. 1, 2019, or even the 21st century.
Instead, it was Jan. 1, 1999, exactly one year before the start of the model year his car belonged to.
After clicking through the settings a few times to see if the car would magically decide 2019 existed, my father-in-law finally accepted his new reality. Because the 2000 Avalon shows days of the week on the dash in an effort to look fancy, he found a year with matching weekdays and warped back to 2002.
We later walked up to his car, which he keeps pristine at 231,000 miles out of sheer pride, and he gave us proof. The blinking screen went through the years: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 1999. We all laughed, joking that a company known for its cars’ longevity should’ve put a few more years on the calendar.
I asked Toyota about it, thinking it probably wouldn’t have been too difficult or taxing on the car to program a few more decades in, and got an answer just this week because there aren’t too many people still around who worked on the car.
A Toyota spokesperson said the owner’s manual tells a buyer right away that it won’t go past that year, and that a solution is to find a year with matching days, like my father-in-law did, and party like it’s whatever year the calendar says it is—whether that be the Great Recession or the era of light-wash jeans:
The spokesperson couldn’t figure out why the calendar was designed to stop at 2018, but considering that 20 years doesn’t feel like too long when it comes to the lifespan of a Toyota, perhaps it’s like a less popular version of the Mayan calendar. Perhaps Toyota thought the world wouldn’t make it past 2018—a reasonable prediction, to be fair—so the engineers just didn’t bother with it.
Maybe, just maybe, we proved the 2000 Avalon team wrong. Or maybe we’re all dead, communicating with each other from beyond, and we don’t know it yet.
But, if your idea of an afterlife is reading a car blog at work instead of being the ruling class on a private island with pet dragons, diamond-encrusted chocolate fountains and talking cats, you really should get more creative. The apocalyptic team designing the 2000 Toyota Avalon would have wanted it that way.