A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

Archive for August, 2008

The Naming of Cars

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My name is…….

1978 Morris 1100, DK3409, name Annabelle. Her middle-aged driver gently pushes the gear lever through from second to first as he prepares to get away from the lights. Her synchromesh has largely gone over the years (it was never the greatest anyway), and the elaborate ritual helps reduce the gnashing of errant gears. He lovingly murmurs a little epithet and runs his hand along the sun-faded dashboard. He notes the odometer has just clicked over 98,005 miles and he secretly wonders how many more years they will have together.

She angrily hurls her little Volvo (name Hilda)through the narrow opening and screeches to a halt amidst a pall of acrid blue smoke. She grumbles as the car stalls itself and she pulls at the door which refuses to open at this crucial moment. She is running late and she almost sobs to the cracked windscreen.

“Oh Hilda. Please, please, don’t do this to me. I really need you to behave today. Please, please open up and please, please go, when I come back from my appointment.” She utters a little sigh of relief when the door magically springs open.

The children lean over the rear seat of the pale green Humber as it grinds down through the gears, going up the moderate hill.

“Why do you call your car Gert, Grandma?” they ask of the greying octagerinerian in the front seat. She grinds her teeth, silently urging the little car to roar up this hill; and not embarrass her in front of her only child’s offspring.

“I just do,” she answers and then she starts to reflect when the name first happened and who invented it and what it could possibly mean.

“Oh Greg,” she murmured as she lovingly stroked the facia panel. The 2002 Holden Astral 2.6, 26 valve, black two-door soft-top seemed to shudder with anticipation. She moved sensuously against the soft doeskin seat and the car actually moved.

“Oh Greg. You are mine,” she softly moaned as she slid her long legs against the leather-covered steering wheel.

“Oh Greg, oh……..” She seemed to softly explode and the glistening car jerked uncontrollably forward.

“I call my car Christine and its not because of any second rate Stephen King novel. I named her after my first girlfriend, Sarah, but that is not important for you to hear. Cars should have women’s names. I don’t go along with this namby pamby women’s thing, where they think they can throw some money at what should be a guy’s car and then get off calling it some dopey fantasy name that makes them feel as though they have got some pussy whipped dope under their thumb. No way. No fucking way.”

The elderly white haired and bearded gentleman looked at the comely young reporter and slowly stroked his beard.

“Well! In my humble opinion the phenomenon is very interesting. It has some elements of a psychological nature but is also an interesting sociological and cultural epi-phenomenon. For those listeners who don’t understand what that is let me explain.”

The young doe-eyed reporter drifted off as the elderly, but well meaning academic went into a convoluted account of the difference between a phenomenon and an epi-phenomenon. Her attention was jerked back when he started in on the next part of his explanation.

“….so when someone attached a moniker or name to their automobile it usually signifies one of a number of things ….or possibly a combination. Firstly, it may be a way of objectifying an intimate object. By naming it with a familiar name it gives the vehicle the status of a member of the family or a friend. This is particularly so with elderly cars. Our research has shown that new cars very rarely are named until they have done many thousands of miles. It might be then that the car has become a part of the family and shared a number of adventures with them. It becomes familiar. Secondly, our culture increasingly relies on machines to perform many tasks. We might spend up to seventy five percent of our day only interacting with a machine. Thus we form an attachment to them and the best way of solidifying that attachment is to add a name. Thirdly, it is usually women who name cars. Women have much stronger social bonding than males and you may have noted that when women who are strangers meet, they are often talking at an intimate level very quickly. This had historical anthropological meaning and this has probably hung over from earlier times when it was highly adaptive.”

She had been talking to her only minutes before the crash. It was a one sided conversation but then it was a car. She had been filling her in on the day’s happening, the thing with the boss, the irate customer who demanded that she talk to her supervisor, the morning tea gossip, when the red car hurtled out of a driveway and into her path. She slammed on the brakes, but, in vain. There was a moment when everything seemed suspended in time and space, then the sickening crunch. Metal and glass exploding and she found herself forced into an intimate relationship with the steering column before the seatbelt did its thing. She reflected briefly that it seemed odd that a vehicular accident bought into reality the transitory relationship we have with driving a car, and then she lost consciousness. One minute you are driving along having a conversation with your car, the next, it’s this bunch of twisted steel and rubber sitting in the middle of the road looking quite ridiculous. She awoke in hospital. The next week she managed to summon enough courage to go and look at Horatio Patariski. I know; you are probably laughing at the name but………, well that’s another story. She tentatively pulled up the roller door to the back of the tow company’s garage. Her shoulder still hurt but that was nothing to the hurt she felt when she saw Horatio. He sat in a puddle of oil and green water, overflow from the burst radiator. His front window was gone and starburst cracks adorned the side windows where the red car had made its mark. It had also left red scars down the left side where it had gouged and ripped Horatio’s front and rear doors. The bonnet was twisted and torn and stood up like some inappropriate erection. She could see into Horatio’s heart. She saw the blue of the broken battery and the wires and belts that drove all the appliances inside his passenger compartment. She drew closer and peered in the passenger’s window. Here, on the same seat where she had lost her virginity, she saw her own spilled blood. She saw the twisted and buckled steering wheel that she had slammed into. She saw the broken glass of the instrument panel and the items strewn around the floor. She felt a twinge of pain that was not connected to her injuries but instead part of the bond she felt with her car. Her chest went cold and she noticed that her hands were shaking. Her breath came in short little pants and she could feel the cold on the back of her neck. A loud voice interrupted her and jerked her out of her musings.

“Looks like it’s a goner. Probably only get a couple of hundred for it now. Not much call for these. Pity! It looked like it was a good un.”

She looked away from the grease stained overalls to the stark green wall where she could make out the tattered remains of naked women from former years calendars. A large sign in bright red letters stared back at her ‘ALL CONTENTS OWNERS RESPONSIBILITY- NO LIABILITY TAKEN’.

She looked out the kitchen window at the rusting wreck sitting on blocks at the back of the property. Once, she had been a mighty vehicle, rushing down leaf strewn country lanes, throwing the autumn leaves skyward as her powerful V8 motor pushed her forward. She had been Bodicea; she had been part of the family. Then Russell had got the cancer that finally took his life and Bodicea had lain in the garage for that awful year as Mary grieved for her lifetime companion. Then Mary found that she couldn’t manage the big car any more and the son had come and looked at it and decided that the rust wasn’t worth fixing and the leaking oil was beyond his expertise and he had advised buying something smaller. Then they found there was no room in the garage any more and Bodicea had been put outside. She had been under cover for a number of years and then one winter the south winds had torn the cover to tatters and she lay a few more years, exposed to the elements. Then the son stopped visiting and Bodicea’s paint gradually started to first fade, then peel. The rust spots got bigger, the tires went flat. Then the nice man next door showed some interest and he took the wheels off and put her on blocks and started to fill some of the gaping holes in the [paintwork. Then his marriage went sour, what with him not working and her out of the house for weeks on end. Then he was gone and Bodicea just faded as her Russell had faded. Now she looked out at the once glorious car and she was reminded of the holidays up north, of the wedding day, of that fabulous trip through the night where they raced all night as the moon slowly sunk into the road ahead of them. A tear rolled down Mary’s cheek and she pulled the curtain shut and turned back to the gloomy room.


The Performer

A small child stands at the edge of the stage. She is dressed in a garish white costume made from flimsy material with many ruffles and bows. She wears white gloves which come nearly to the level of her elbows. Her hair is blonde but the dark areas near the roots suggest it is from a bottle. The hair is also decorated with bows. She wears shear silk stockings and the traps on her silver shoes make a metallic clang as she shuffles to the middle of the dancing circle. She is outlandishly made-up to look like an adult but she more closely resembles a clown. The band in the orchestra pit starts a fanfare and she robotically starts her routine. She seems to have left her youth in that still caricature at the edge of the stage. Powdered, rouged, she is totally absorbed in enthusing her dance with a level of flirtatiousness Far beyond her years. The middle age members of the audience shift uneasily in their seats. A woman, possibly her mother, stands with her hands covering the O of her mouth. It is not clear whether she is positive or negative about the girl’s performance. The girl throws out her hands and wiggles her hips, then extends one hand with fingers suspended in a parody of a homosexual flirtation. She ends her performance and bows to the audience and suddenly she is transformed into a child of twelve or thirteen. The watching woman stands at the corner of the stage and wraps her daughter in a coat as she flees from the stage. She whispers words of encouragement in her ear.