Friday, May 29, 2009

Driving to Distraction

I have never really understood the whole fascination with cars that people have around here.

I like cars, in that they are reasonably useful for getting me from Point A (defined as anyplace without sufficient books or snacks) to Point B (defined as anyplace with said sufficiencies) without depositing me at Point C (defined as anyplace where the main form of entertainment is centered on cars) too often. Cars also carry a great many things that would otherwise be difficult to transport, such as groceries and small children, and they come in a variety of pleasing colors.

What's not to love?

I have even come to enjoy driving, a necessity out here in the subway-deprived midwest where even dinner invitations can reasonably involve commutes of up to 100 miles. I fire up the CD player or the radio, spread out my snacks and head for the open highways. When I was running back and forth to Faraway Campus it was a two-hour drive each way just to get to work - not something I would have wanted to do for more than the year I did it, but not all that bad for that time. It was down time - time when nobody made any demands upon me other than to stay in my lane and not change the shape of anything - and I rather enjoyed it.

But I do not get the obsession with vehicles that people have. People like to take them apart, rewire them and put them together again in different configurations that are louder, shinier and more indicative of personal problems than they probably ought to be ("Nice truck!" we call out to such people in our town, "Sorry about the [genitalia]!"). The apartment Kim and I lived in after we got married was located at a four-way stop sign, at which the local motorheads with their glass-packed POS's would congregate and drown out our telephone. It was annoying, obviously, but more than that it was incomprehensible. If they had shown up drunk and shouting, I could have at least understood why they were in that condition, even if it would have been just as annoying and probably just as hard to hear our phone. But with the cars? Huh.

And then when they're not working on their cars, the motorheads are watching them go around and around on weekend afternoons. As a hockey fan I suppose that I am in no position to be snarky about NASCAR's popularity, but you know - if I wanted to watch cars go around in circles until they hit each other, I'd go sit in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart. The snacks are cheaper.

We have two reasonably nice cars here at the manse, both of which were chosen primarily because they were reliable, big enough to haul cargo and efficient enough not to bankrupt us. And they have done an admirable job of living up to those things. But I wonder sometimes about being the kiss of death for the poor things. One is a Saturn, and the other is a Pontiac. Four of our last five cars were either Saturns or Pontiacs. In a year, there won't be any more Saturns or Pontiacs.

Great googly moogly, we've killed them.

This happens with a lot of the products I like, actually. Sodas, television shows, entire categories of electronics - all defunct.

I don't suppose that cars in general will go away, at least not in my lifetime. And as long as they exist, there will be people fascinated by them. I won't be one of them, but then I am so generally out of step with my culture that I may have lapped it.

Those car references - they're sneaky.

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