Wednesday, March 05, 2008

For What Is This "Carness," of Which You Speak, O Socrates?

I saw something on MSN about "New Volvo [number whatever] - safest car ever." And I thought "Who buys a car because it's 'safe'?" I don't see strippers or bottles of vodka or assault rifles or stereo receivers advertising themselves as "safe" - they all want to be known as fast, furious, big, loud, and dangerous. Yes, I was able to answer my rhetorical question myself with the obvious answer, "Middle aged people with kids." But really, isn't the Platonic ideal of "car" come out to "something that combines in perfect balance the qualities of going fast and looking good." No room for "safe" there in the definition, my Swedish friends. Add "safe" and you've changed the definition to "portable waiting room for watching my life and potency slowly slip away."

6 Comments:

Blogger John Hornor Jacobs said...

Aww. Don't tell me that you too are caught up in America's unrequited love for the automobile. Look where it's got us.

My first car was a Volvo Turbo -- I believe the Latin translation of Volvo is 'I roll' which is cool in itself. And hey, if there ever was truly a Deathrace 2000, every single one of those cars would be suped-up Volvo's with 50 cals mounted on the roof. Boxy but deadly, baby.

10:04 AM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

I can think of several - no, make that many! - automobiles that I have loved much more than most people. A couple that I have loved more than ANY person.

Now, as for certain "peripherals" that go with constant driving - like drive thrus and drive-ins - those I can see were just silly from the get-go.

11:05 AM  
Blogger John Hornor Jacobs said...

Car's just facilitate getting from A to B. They're harmful, cumbersome tools. Preferring one over any other is like saying that you really like this brand of Phillips head screwdriver over any other. And getting your egos wrapped up it! Don't get me started.

On the other hand, I remember the freedom my first car represented. But it wasn't the car itself -- it could have been a horse or boat or plane ticket for that matter -- it was the potential for change the car represented. I could leave, and if I wanted to, never look back. But I guess you can't do any heavy-petting with your sweetheart on the back of a horse...er...well, I guess you can at that. A little weird for my tastes though.

12:26 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

You're absolutely right about the freedom aspect, I think that does determine a lot of our feelings. That, and getting your license is one of the few rites of passage in our society. But I believe you're totally wrong on the "tool" aspect of "car" - it'd be like saying clothes are to keep you warm. Clothes have long since become primarily decorative and status markers. That's not good or bad, I suppose, but it's just part of our world.

2:16 PM  
Blogger John Hornor Jacobs said...

Well, you have me on the tool aspect. I understand clothing as an expression of one's personality, after all, it covers thy nakedness and so fulfills a role our bodies can't really provide, warmth and protection from the elements. However, most of us can walk (God knows I need to get my fatness up and out the door more often).

America's reliance on the automobile, its romance with this substitute for self-locomotion has done great harm to our country for generations. Urban sprawl, obesity, pollution, and not to mention all of the detritus and environmental destruction -- all to get from one place to another faster. And the fact that generations now have been conditioned through marketing to equate affluence and sexuality to, ultimately, just a thing, an object, well...it bothers me.

It's lamentable that in the South you can't even be employed without a car. Our cities are so large geographically, that to live without an automobile is to doom yourself to poverty.

I'll dismount from the soapbox now. I have a car - a Honda - and I get it regular oil changes. But hopefully, it says nothing about me other than that I'm pragmatic. And by not being ostentatious to overcompensate for a lack somewhere else, hopefully it says that I've got a gigantic rod for the ladies.

I don't follow sports either.

2:48 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

Oh yes, the practical downsides of this obsession are many and various and increasingly dire. I have no doubt that future generations will look back upon the car the way we look back upon the corset or whale hunting - very unnatural, destructive behaviors. That being said, I'm a product of my culture and I'll enjoy it while I can; I may even look back nostalgically on it when it's gone, even if I intellectually accept its shortcomings.

4:16 PM  

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