Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Your chariot awaits

I am without doubt an eco-vandal. This is almost the inevitable consequence of living in a first-world country, driving a car and flying anywhere by plane. I used up my fair share of the world’s resources aged 6, and on a strict resource allocation view should be dead by now.

Though it’s the plane travel that has really used up my fair share of global resources, I have been moved to ponder anew my car.

Not in any stupid, I’ll get rid of it for the good of humanity kinda way. I’m far too fond of it for that.

But what, as a key consumer good and the only substantial asset I own other than a wardrobe, does it say about me?

It is a second-hand ex-fleet-vehicle Toyota Echo that, on a cursory inspection looks close to new. Small, easy to park, and in the “smell of an oily rag” fuel efficiency category. It is a fairly neutral, though shiny, grey. Missjenjen thinks it a rather girly vehicle. (That said, she’s grown to admire its recessed instrumentation visible only to the driver and its significant grunt in accelerating away from lights. Yes, I let her drive it.) It has great speakers, but a bad cassette deck I’ve not yet replaced with a CD player (there are a lot of things I could do with a few hundred dollars before I bother doing that).

I am certainly not fuel-efficient. So right there, any metaphoric similarity between vehicle and onwer breaks down.

So to speak.

Still, the cabin - the bit most people see and in which I spend the most time - is neat, orderly and free of clutter. However, the pit of chaos, where things go that I have too little inclination to deal with, is the boot. Old stuff gathers there for a while until my tidy-mindedness builds to a point where I snap and do something about it. But some stuff, not all of it useful, lingers in a cardboard box full of old maps, spare water bottles, the tire iron and a heap of just-in-case, but really-fairly-useless stuff. I have this one area of inefficiency, cordoned off.

That makes sense to me: no ordinary observer would sense disorder, but it’s there - even if tucked away and limited.

My car has neither a name, nor gender - and is not washed frequently enough (mostly it has the grace not to show this), though I do have it serviced regularly.

I wonder what driving it round the inner north of Melbourne with the windows down on balmy days, blaring Oscar Peterson’s jazz piano through the speakers might say about me? (Sprightly right-hand piano work going through a Doppler shift must surely bemuse passers-by.)

I really will have to burn off some Eminem-torturing Monaro driver one day.

Do cars say anything about their owners?

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