Car talk

Sometimes the intense pressure of keeping a secret simply becomes too much to bear.

Okay, I’ll admit it.

I talk to my car.

I never said much to my first automobile, an eight-year-old 1973 Ford Maverick that had 81,000 miles on it when I bought it. And what phrases I did utter were usually angry ones, since our one-way conversations only occurred after one of my too-frequent stalls in the middle of a busy intersection.

But I learned from experience, and used only gentle words of encouragement with my next ride, a $200 1974 Dodge Colt which featured, among other things, a missing gas cap and a non-functional odometer frozen at 95,000 miles. But it seems kindness goes a long way with motor vehicles, since its four-cylinder Mitsubishi engine kept on chugging reliably for three years. In fact, that rusty chariot would probably still be on the road today were it not for several holes in the floor, one of which was big enough to get my hand through. A mechanically- skilled friend suggested that unless I was prepared to start using the same sort of brakes Fred Flintstone did, I should probably find another form of transportation. Reluctantly bidding sayonara to my rapidly-oxidizing companion, I got myself a used Vette for a thousand dollars, hoping to acquire both more reliable transportation and a surefire way to impress the ladies.

It turned out those rumors suggesting guys who drive Vettes were irresistible to women were pure hogwash. However, that Chevette responded favorably to my verbal encouragement for four years, until I bought my first-ever non-preowned car, a 1989 Hyundai Excel. And even though I didn’t (and still don’t) know a word of Korean, when I spoke it listened, and we had a wonderful decade together.

Since then I’ve had two other cars, both of which have been easy to stay on speaking terms with. Apparently some autos actually can talk these days, but I’ve not yet had the pleasure of owning one. I’ve ridden in a few, but their ability to converse seemed limited to canned phrases like “Your door is ajar,” “Parking brake is on,” or “Fuel level low.”

I would love to be able to carry on a two-way conversation with my car, or any motor vehicle, for that matter. A wise person (okay; my nephew’s girlfriend) once said, “If it has a name, it has a soul,” and since many drivers quietly name their autos, it follows that there are a whole lot of lonely four-wheeled conveyances out there that would really appreciate the opportunity to chat.

While I’d appreciate being able to talk with my car, one thing I’d never want to see is cars with the ability to talk with one another. That’d be a disaster waiting to happen. I can only imagine the reaction I’d get after my car learned from some arrogant Ferrari that it gets premium gas, or from a pompous Tesla that it receives a weekly wax job and lives in a heated garage. No one, least of all me, wants to have to mollify a resentful, covetous automobile, even one with a mere four-cylinder engine.

These days I often chat about cars with some of the students in my high school English classes, including one young man who drives a pickup truck that gets 12 miles per gallon. He asked me if I ever take any abuse from people because I drive a Prius. Of course I answered him honestly, replying that I never do, or at least not from anyone who matters.

Yeah, I talk to my car. Doesn’t everybody?

Andy Young
September 2, 2023

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