My family has always tended to anthropomorphize – that is, give human names and characteristics to – our cars. I’ve been heavily influenced by this practice and tend to ask people, when first climbing into their car, if they’ve taken the time to name theirs.
Our family formula consisted of using the first letter of the brand of car to figure out the first name. So the new members of the family had names like Neil the Nissan and Dick the Dodge and Charlotte the Chevrolet. With the family obsession in the Volvo brand, we’ve figured out that there are only so many first names that start with a V.
Gender also tends to be a tricky aspect in the naming, something more in line with personal bias and the resonance of the car than an actual formula. It’s this idea of resonance that I thought of when I walked out to put the new front turn signal covers on to my car. My old ones had cracked with the wind and age, and I, like my Dad, got online to find spare parts to refurbish my Vance.
It was then, sitting in the graveled cement of the parking lot turning screws, that I realized how I regard my interaction with my car as probably one of the more spiritual things that I do.
I tend to talk to my car. I bolster its self-esteem with comments like, “We can do this! It’s only a dirt road.” to “Look at that other wagon, you’re so much prettier. That there is just spare parts.”
I think to when I’ve driven out to this insanely boon-dockish area to ride horses. [Boon-dockish as in the signs tells you that state upkeep of roads ends here. And here. And also, there may be uncontrolled flooding – just so you know.] I sit, bouncing up and down, and wince and tell my car that it’ll be alright.
I think to just recently when a classmate of mine happened to park next to me, and after he watched me unlock my car, proceeded to tell me how much he liked Volvos. “Nice ride,” he said as he left and I believe I got all flustered and starry-eyed as if he had said that he liked what I was wearing. It becomes an extension of me.
Apart from being an extension, I figure that this massive machine becomes an armor and that you have to have this sort of communal (and hopefully respectful and loving) attitude toward it in order for him to protect you. I remember having a tire blow out as I was going 75 mph on the highway and feel, for a fact, that my car looked out for me. She (different car) waited until there were no other cars and then we worked together in order to not roll multiple times into the desert. I feel certain of it.
So I tap the dash and apologize if take a hard turn. I kiss my hand at slap the roof for luck when I cross a yellow light. I say this from the comfort of sanity, only because I know I can frame these actions in the veil of spirituality and superstition.
It sounds crazy; but then, so does a lot of religion.
Back on the hot concrete as I sat the old covers of the turn signal on the hood of the car, I felt this stab of sadness when I thought about if I should ask my Dad whether he feels that type of spirituality when he works on the cars. I realized that I couldn’t anymore. Somehow, though, thinking about the years where he would fix my car late into the night when I came home from college or when I was in high school, that was his way of trying to protect me and show me that he cared. As such, I do think that this was a path of spirituality that he laid down for me, and ultimately, that answers my question.