In this day and age, you probably won’t get many brownie points if you have the audacity to say ‘I really like cars, and I like them fast, loud and expensive.’ But so what if you do? Don’t apologize for it (I certainly don’t) and if someone starts preaching you about CO₂, ignore them. Don’t engage them in that topic because they won’t stop and you’re bound to say something horrible to them. I’m not going any further down that road right now because The Car is much more than a source of arguments. But people who are into cars do suffer from stereotypes like these two: either you have to live in small town, wear a baseball cap at a jaunty angle and listen to senseless pop-trance-techno vomit, and on weekdays, you stand around smoking cigarettes and, on weekends, you drink, drive and hit a tree. Or if not that, you are a man who treats women like disposable items. Attitudes like this can mostly be found in people who take everything too seriously, especially themselves, and the very core thing about cars is that you shouldn’t take such an uptight approach to them. They are pretty silly, after all. Boxes with wheels attached to them.
Don’t for a second think that it is somehow predetermined whether someone likes cars or not. ‘It’s a boy! Go buy the duvet with the cars!’ Nah, forget about all that, especially you ladies. For example, I wasn’t born this way. Sure, as a kid I’d inhale deeply every time I passed the gas station near my home, but that’s just because I liked the smell. In fact, for a long time I almost loathed the act of driving a car and for that I blame the dreary Ford Focus diesel that I sat in all through driving school. It took almost two years before I actually began to enjoy turning the steering wheel and feeling the car respond. I suppose the turning point from disliking cars and driving to loving it began with Top Gear, a hugely popular British motoring show that has viewers who don’t even like cars that much, they simply enjoy the show. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, with their antics and creative metaphors made me understand why some people think cars are so wonderful. And before I knew it, I was one of them and quickly began to collect my favorite cars in that imagined Garage of Dreams every gear head has.
A whole new world opened up for me when I started paying attention to cars everywhere I went. It’s great to not be bored if you have to wait for a late bus when there is always the possibility to see something interesting cruise past. In the bus, I always sit on the left side by the window. Can you guess why? I like to carspot, and I’ve seen some pretty interesting ones like Aston Martin DB9s, Bentleys and a couple of Audi R8s. But my favorite is still the Porsche 911 (see the pretty picture) and, lucky for me, there are plenty of those adorning the streets of Helsinki and they never fail to put a smile on my face and make my heart skip a beat or two.
I’ve found driving to be one of the best ways to get rid of stress. Last spring, when I thought I was about to die of pressure about two weeks before my University entrance exam, I was belting up and down the highway in a gorgeous Mercedes with the sunroof open and I forgot all about linguistics, literary analysis and the Anglo-Saxons. Sure, I did most of the work on my own, but that car fueled me, it had its part in getting me where I wanted. Taking a walk in the forest would have only made me think of tree diagrams.
Still cars aren’t something you have to enjoy on your own, sitting in your room and circling the best candidates from the latest used car magazines. The Car is a social thing as I came to realize as soon as I became a bit more outspoken about my affinity for it. Two of the latest fun conversations with total strangers include a man in his sixties I met on a frozen car park as he was checking out a red Jaguar. We had an interesting chat themed British cars versus German cars. Another chance meeting was at a Humanisticum party when a friend of mine, with me in tow, decided to approach a couple of young men in their fetching pink overalls. I don’t think I would’ve been able to hold down such a long conversation with them without my soft spot for car engines.
Don’t even get me started on the endless possibilities of sitting in traffic lights and looking over at the driver next to you.
But I’m not just talking about an object. To prove a point, I refer to the finale of the American TV show Six Feet Under. Why do you think one of the best TV series ever made ended with the youngest of the Fisher family driving a car through a barren landscape with glimpses of the future shown to the viewers? It’s a metaphor. The highway of life. We’re all speeding, idling and cruising through life. I’m one of those people who believe cars can transcend themselves to being something much more than just its physical matter. It hasn’t happened to me yet with any car, but I sat on the passenger’s seat when my brother drove his beloved BMW for the last time before selling it. So yes, I believe that German lump of metal was much more than what it appeared. He stills asks about it occasionally. ‘Have you seen it anywhere?’ Even my mom cried when she gave up her first car which was a banged up Datsun.
And if that’s hard to believe, think how difficult it is to throw away your favorite pair of jeans or shoes. They are worn, they stink even though you’ve washed them and they’ve lost their original color and look, but you love them anyway. They are not just jeans or shoes.
So what is The Car? A box with wheels. A fantastic conversation topic. A thing of beauty. A lump of metal and a metaphor. It’s one big bundle of joy. What matters isn’t what a bunch of engineers put together in a factory in Germany – or Japan or the US if you swing that way – but what you experience with it. And it doesn’t hurt if the badge on its front oozes with prestige.