Speaking of Cars

You can learn a lot about people by what they drive. Some people say cars mirror our personalities (especially if they drive something brand-new, sporty or classic).

I certainly hope my car doesn’t describe me. My 1999 sedan is going through a midlife crisis. Two of the windows are stubborn, a piece of trim went airborne last week on the Interstate and the paint has faded from a very regal purple to looking like a bruise on some weird skin infection. Once stopped, you have to coax it to move again and sometimes the air conditioner smells like the lost and found box in the boys’ locker room.

On second thought, maybe my car is a lot like me.

But still, it is my car – my baby, my royal carriage – and like most Americans, I’ll do whatever I please to and in my car. We personalize them with our own junk (often called “accessories” by retailers who want us to purchase the stuff), expect them to run like suspects on “Cops” and treat them better than we do our own in-laws.

People eat, sleep, sing, pick (you know who you are) and grin in their automobiles. And we use them to transport everything including our kids and all of their “accessories,” too.

I’ve hauled seed corn in a hatchback and remember once transporting a goat in the backseat of a station wagon borrowed from a teacher. Funny thing, I don’t remember that mess being any worse than those left by kids in my car.

Sometimes we’re encouraged to fill our cars with unusual stuff. Take for example the rental car I recently drove. It had a console with special little clips for papers, pens and one for lip balm. A lip balm holder? It’s great idea – for the console of a dog sled in Alaska. Anywhere else, Chapstick left in a car in the months of March through September turns into a mass of molten goo. What were the carmakers thinking?

I fail to understand the planning behind compartments for loose change, either. My wife’s van has spring-loaded coin holders – three of them. Last I knew there were four common coins, yet there’s no place for pennies. It’s still better than in my car. I only have spots designated for quarters and nickels. Sure hope I don’t have to pay an 11-cent toll somewhere.

I wonder if the designers actually drive (and maintain) their own cars?  I bet they don’t, otherwise I could get to my car’s battery without removing a front wheel, we would have radios that automatically mute Justin Bieber and cars would come with French fry holders in the dashboard.

Does anyone really keep gloves in their glove compartment? That’s what I thought: manuals, maps, coupons, napkins, flashlights, straws, pens, change, toilet paper (admit it), sunglasses, CDs, packets of taco sauce and stale crackers, but no gloves. It’s got everything in it. Everything, that is, except its namesake.

Cars are our second largest investment (the biggest being the items on fifth graders’ back-to-school supply lists) and the average American spends more than 100 hours each year just commuting for work. It’s no wonder that we want to cars that make a statement about who we are.

So, you’ve got my permission to coddle your Corolla, pamper your Passport and delight your Dakota. Fill up your Avalanche with a mountain of stuff, party in your Fiesta and sing in your Sonata while I fly by in my Concorde. Most of all, let your choice of car reflect your personality; just make sure the goat doesn’t eat your Chapstick.

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