Stars and Cars

24 09 2009

Several years ago I remember seeing a Billy Connolly sketch about a time when he discovered the fickle and delusional origins of astrology.  He told a typically wonderful rendition of meeting a date one evening, a journalist at a local paper, only for her to shatter his preconceptions of the ‘stars’ by revealing that they weren’t in fact based on the alignment of the planets, but more the necessity to fill some column inches by whomever had the time to invent it.  This may come as no surprise to many of you.  The fact that even ephemeral gossip magazines have a resident ‘astrologer’ should raise the first alarm bells, seeing as such magazines are the literary equivalent of the white congealed grease you get on the base of a cheap pork pie.

Astrology is the art of specific ambiguity: saying something so vague that people will actually start to think it not only relates to them, but in someway predicts huge events in the coming days or weeks.  “Next week you will meet someone, and together you will do something, and you will have memories of this.”  Quite right, actually.  This morning I had to open the front door to stop our postman from stripping the skin from his arms in our letterbox.  Only his arms were still in the letterbox when I opened the door, so we had an awkward moment where he was bent over as if trapped in some modern suburban stocks.  We exchanged nervous laughter, and I pulled the package from the inside of the door.  I then closed the door, to leave him to disentangle himself without me watching.  So there you go, the prediction was correct.  And it’s only Tuesday.

I digress.  There’s a popular theory which goes something like this: a person’s car is a reflection of his of her inner self.  Clichéd and overused it may be, but does it hold a nugget of truth?  Well, depending on how you choose to view blasé social commentary (this story, it seems, is not without a sense of irony), the point could be argued both ways.  Much like the convergence of Jupiter and Venus can only mean that your boyfriend thinks your new haircut makes you look like Pat Sharpe; driving around in an MX-5 can only mean you are the person who cuts the hair so badly in the first place.  But wait, I drove an MX-5 a few years ago and loved it.  The usual comments of its transparent steering and perfect balance were confirmed.  And I am hopeless at cutting hair, and would happily prove this statement to anyone willing to volunteer.  Did I actually buy an MX-5?  No, but that’s because I bought a Honda S2000, which is the same kind of concept but turned up a few notches.  I like engines, and the one in an MX-5 is, though amply sufficient, about as interesting as tomato soup.

Another way to look at the MX-5 debate is to see it as a defiance of social stereotypes.  People will assume you like small dogs in bags and you buy cucumber for your face (incidentally, why not make a handbag out of a small dog, and see if it presents Paris Hilton with a moral dilemma?).  I always smile when I see such a car driven by a large balding chap with a tattoo on his arm, not because of these associations, but because he had the balls to buy the car he wanted in spite of them. I prefer to think of MX-5 owners as those who enjoy the mechanical simplicity of the machine, who see a car as an uncomplicated relationship between man and road.  That’s the anthropological ‘man’ by the way, not the sexist one.

So do stereotypes influence our cars?  Of course they do.  But some people buy a car in a bid to perpetuate these notions, whilst others seek to contravene them by sticking two fingers up at what others think.  Both of these determiners will be rewarded by the people they socialise with.  I drive a bright yellow soft-top which makes lots of noise and looks pretty.  Or, depending on who I’m talking to, I drive a screaming 150mph roadster with the best four-cylinder petrol engine ever made, and a habit for flicking its owners into a tree.  To say I don’t care what others think is utter rubbish, everyone cares a little bit, but I know who I’d rather have a conversation with.




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