Friday, September 18, 2009

Anthropomorphism: A Love Story

The above picture is of Helena and I. You probably know by now about my recent purchase of a 1985 Pontiac Fiero, but let me go into some detail here.

I have been driving a 98 Honda Civic we bought new in, well, 1998. It is a great car and has served us well. When we came back from Europe in 2006, we bought Jennifer a brand new Accord V6. It's a spiffy thing, with plenty of zoom-zoom. Again, a great car, and it serves us very well.

With all of us going different directions all week long, we knew we needed a third car. The initial intention was to pass the Civic on to The Boy, and buy another new car. Then we thought about the fact we didn't really want a new car payment, so we thought we'd buy something used, and maybe pass it to The Daughter in a couple of years, and THEN buy something new. So, we looked all over. We almost bought a Prius, but they weren't able to come down where I wanted to spend. We almost bought a 2000 Civic off Craig's List, but then when the shifty bastard selling it pulled out the title, there was someone else's name on it, and some weird document with his first name and his wife's maiden name. Rather than buy his stolen car, we moved on.

The search wasn't going well. Couldn't find what we wanted which would fit our needs. Then, in my office, a guy put up a picture of this little yellow car in my price range. The pic was really fuzzy, so I asked him about it.

“It's a Fiero,” he said. Now, I knew I didn't want to pass a Fiero on to The Daughter, but at least I worked with this guy, and knew he wasn't going to sell me a stolen car, so I got his son's contact (that's who's car it was) and called to see if I could go look at it. I drove out to see it, and finally finding the street, came around the corner...

Our eyes met, and I was smitten. She sat there gleaming, and I felt something I hadn't felt for a car in a long time- adoration.

When I talked to the guy, I could tell he loved the car, but he was a bit of a motorhead, and had a lot of projects. He had to find her a new home, but he had also been very reluctant to sell her. We realized we were both referring to the car as “her” about halfway through our talk. I won't go into more details on this part, but obviously she came home with me, and I am still madly in love with this car. It's been a long time since I was in love with a car. Probably since I was 16 and had a little '76 Honda CVCC which I kept running with spit, bailing wire, and affection. Some might say it's a midlife crisis thing, but let me debunk that. The midlife crisis is a function of evolutionary psychology- the male making himself more attractive to younger breeding stock by actively demonstrating virility and the ability to provide for offspring. As much as I love this car, let's face facts: girls born the same year or after my car was made are not swooning for the bald dude in the Fiero. That's cool though, I don't need them, I have Helena.

How is it we fall in love with automobiles? They are just machines, bolted together bits of rubber and metal, burning gas to move, pumping oil to keep its engine moving. Yet, we ascribe quirks and personalities to them. We give them names (don't tell me you haven't) and use personal pronouns to refer to them. We talk to them and cajole them when they don't run properly, and smile at them when they corner well.

You ever buy your car presents? A new steering wheel cover perhaps, or find a replacement for some little tweaked component? And we hope they like it when we put them on. Now, intellectually I know it's a car, just a machine- yet in my heart, I know she is happy we found each other.

You know, just to go off on a tangent here, I look at the potential technology and artificial intelligence around us and I wonder: if we can love cars, what will happen when we make androids? Suddenly, those Cylons seem a lot more plausible.

So, here I confess my love of this car. I don't know why, we just clicked. Kind of like when you get along with a person, or meet that special someone. I love driving this car- and due to people on the road I've hated driving for a long time, even when I liked my cars. I really like having that feeling again.

Here's what's interesting. I liked the old Civic a lot. Good car, always dependable. We had a long partnership. The Civic belongs to The Boy now; he tells me he loves her. I guess they clicked.


Dave said...

I remember when they came out with those Fieros. I saw one in the showroom. My dad had just bought a 4 door Pontiac 6000.

You know how to tell if you love a car? If you've done this: park it, start walking away, and without knowing it, stop and have to turn around and take one last look.

Dan said...

Yeah- I keep looking out the peephole on my front door to make sure she's still there...

Dan said...

I also find myself gazing intently at her reflection in the backs of cars I am stopped behind at red lights.