People and Cars

The other day I backed into a parking space at the grocery store that I go to.  I wasn’t trying to make a statement by backing in to the parking spot, it is just to save the front lower lip on my Evolution from damage from the concrete stop blocks used.

As I backed in there was an older couple returning to their car that was parked next to mine.  It was unusual that it was not the typical Buick sedan most people in their age group tend to drive.  Instead it was a Lexus SUV and they politely waited for me to exit my Evo before they got in their vehicle.

It was a short shopping trip for me as I only had half a dozen things to pick up so I was back at my car about ten minutes later.  To my surprise they were still parked next to my car.

I went back to the trunk to put my single bag of groceries in the netting and the wife of the couple came over and asked me what kind of car I was driving.  I explained that it was a Mitsubishi Evolution and was based on a rally car.  She was fascinated and had several flattering comments on the car, especially the rear wing.  She was surprised to find out that the wing as well as many of the things about the car were not add-ons, but how the factory delivered the car.

She shared with me how they celebrated their wedding anniversary by getting a chauffeured ride in a 1950’s Packard convertible.  She told me that she got the same feeling from looking at my car as she did being around the Packard.

I was certainly flattered that they liked the looks of my Evolution.  Of course I feel it’s a great looking car, but it is especially nice when someone else admires it for many of the same reasons as I do.

This brings to mind the interesting connections that humans have with their motor vehicles.  For many of us the car we have or wished we had is as important as how we dress ourselves.  Janis Joplin sang of how she begged the lord for a Mercedes Benz so that she could be compatible with her friends.

Instinctively we know that our cars reflect an image to the outside world of who we are and what our values are.  Of course this can change depending upon where you live, too.  In the Midwest it is common for folks to stick to a particular brand even through several generations.  It is interesting to hear them talk about their cars in that context.  Often they will talk about characteristics of their Ford that make them superior to the Chevy that their neighbor might have. 

When I traveled to New Ulm, MN, which is considered the most German town in America there are no German car dealerships to be found.  No VW, no BMW, no Audi, and certainly no Porsche.  Instead there is the local Buick and Ford dealerships and this in a town fiercely proud of their German heritage.

When I would go to Vermont the typical car was a Subaru.  It not only was practical to have the AWD, but it went along with the state’s identity of being more back to nature than it would to drive a 4WD Ford pickup.

In my own town of Cary, NC, there was a substantial shift in brand ownership when a couple of years ago the price of gasoline shot up.  Where in the past you could do an intersection inventory and find that BMW was the preferred brand to demonstrate your success, it shifted to Toyota’s Prius almost over night.

Some people obsess over the looks of their car keeping it washed and waxed beyond a couple of times a year.  You can drive past the local coin car washes on a sunny weekend and find it packed with apartment dwellers that clean them inside and out to a car show level.

Others use their cars like a rolling trash bag.  I cannot count the many times I’ve driven a car onto the alignment rack to find that the passenger side floor board is filled with the trash of several visits to fast food drive-up windows.  The rest of the car is strewn with kid’s toys, game pieces, and spilled food.  The door handles and console cup holders are so full of loose change that it spills on to the floor and gets lodged between the seats and the driveshaft hump.  You have got to wonder if they ever notice what they have done to the interiors.

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3 Responses to People and Cars

  1. Jim says:

    I used to keep my cars clean and polished inside and out. Now, these weren’t great cars, just inexpensive coupes or family wagons, but I took pride in them.

    Today, divorced with kids, taking care of a house alone, involved with causes that matter to me, time is short. I keep my car (a 2003 Toyota Matrix XRS, the first quasi-fun car I’ve ever owned) maintained, but that’s about it. I don’t like it much! But that’s where I am in my life right now.

    I wrote about the condition of my Matrix recently.

    http://jimgrey.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/it-may-not-look-like-much-but-it-sure-goes-like-stink/

  2. Mark says:

    Hmm, a Packard convertible and a Mitsubishi Evo don’t go very well together if you see what I mean. But from what you said that lady must have felt the same sense of occasion about these cars. Quite interesting.

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