Monday, December 13, 2004

Girls and Cars

Apparently, the Super Genius is also having car problems, which got me thinking about how much car problems suck, and not just for the obvious reasons--money, inconvenience, etc. Ford Motor Company incorporated in 1903, came out with the Model T in 1908, and began to mass produce cars in 1913, which made cars affordable. In 1920, women were granted the right to vote. Coincidence? Maybe... maybe not. Leslie Satcher wrote this terrible song which, for some reason--maybe to provide "good girls" with an alternative to "Goodbye, Earl"--Martina McBride sang. I mean, Sweet Jesus, it contains the lyrics "There ain't no slap-dab-a tellin'" Slap-dab-a? Slap-dab-a? That sucks so bad, I hope people get up and leave restaurants when Satcher walks in. Anyway, somehow, in the midst of this piece of shit song, Satcher accidentally hits on the fundamental truth of girls and cars: "I've got a Mustang / It'll do 80 / You don't have to be my baby." If I have my car, I can leave. And when I'm in my car, I'm as fast as my car can go, as powerful as the engine under the hood, as sleek as Detroit sees fit. In my car, I can go anywhere and see anything. I can't walk down Dickerson at night, but I can drive down it. Thanks to my car, if you can drive there, I can go there. Thanks to my car, I can spend an afternoon with the sun roof open and the windows down and the dog in the passenger seat with her head out the window, with the Spanglish version of Cypress Hill's greatest hits blaring on the radio. I'm not thinking about the dishes that need doing or the things that need dusting or the dog hair that needs up off the couch. I'm not too fat or too smart or too loud or too ungraceful or too ungrateful or too ugly or too much someone's friend for them to date or too "good for them" or too anything. No one can nag me about getting married and settling down and getting back to church and doing all the things good girls should. I'm just in my car with the warm sun on my face, too far from anything to worry about it. My car makes my freedom possible. And when my car makes a funny noise or rejects its muffler for some reason or decides not to start or starts but dies at stop signs or falls apart in some terrible way as I'm flying down the interstate at 80 miles an hour, it's not just my car; it's my freedom. The only think that makes 80% of the ordinary crap we have to do even remotely bearable is that we're not trapped by it. At any minute, we can get in our cars and leave it all behind. In other words, as long as the car is running, I'm here because I choose to be, not because I have to be.


Blogger the Professor said...

I just want to point out that this post gives you one significant thing in common with Rush Limbaugh. I was heard a show (during a phase of "getting to know your enemies") where he was angry at Clinton for promoting public transportation. Apparently, public transportation is a form of government control that the Democrats like, whereas cars give us freedom.
Can't you at least express the statement as something like "I become accutely aware of my freedom, my ability to act in and on the world, when I am driving, or at least knowing that I am able to drive." Otherwise, I will be haunted not only by my thoughts of Aunt B and Rush but also my fears that Heidegger is right about something (forhanden and zuhanden).

12/13/2004 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Cripes! Rush Limbaugh and I almost agree on something? Well, even a stopped watch is right twice a day and, in this case, Rush is almost right. I don't think that public transportation is a means of controlling the population and, frankly, I think that a city the size of Nashville ought to have a better bus system and some trains of some sort that I can hop on in order to get to Memphis.

That being said, it's not just that I become accutely aware of my freedom/my ability to act in and on the world, when I am driving, because without driving, I am not free. Without the ability and means to leave, I can't really choose to stay.

I didn't really get at it in my post, but I think driving and women's freedom are intimately linked. It's not just that driving brought things closer; it made it possible for us to get far away.

It's funny how much anxiety we have about being cyborgs--part "man"/part machine (i.e. computers), when really, the real revolution has been gynomobiles--women (in) cars.

On the other hand, it makes me wonder if that's not kind of the point in NASCAR, to reinforce among the poorest and most traditional white folks that driving is for men, too dangerous for women, in other words, that freedom is for men, and is too dangerous for women.

And, of course, cars ARE terrible for the environment, which makes our love affair with them--us earth goddesses, liberal hippie witches and good Christian women alike--so unheimlich.

[Tee hee. You had to know I'd get the only Heideggerian piece of German I knew in there!]

12/13/2004 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger the Professor said...

Okay, you make some fair points and even admit (implicitly) that linking cars and freedom poses some real class issues. And, I really like disconnecting women (feminists or not) from nature. Of course, we don't have to damage the environment to demonstrate that we too can reason and make ours worlds anew. But, were you being ironic by terming cyborgs part "men" part machine because you knew that the term "cyborg" comes from a feminist "man"ifesto, or was that accidental?

As for my reference to Heidegger, sorry, I guess I just had to be all haughty in demonstrating that I am good at something since I am so bad at cars (and all things mechanic, nay material). Heidegger was concerned about our relationship with technology. Well, he was concerned with our relationships with everything, since Being is a relation, as is Truth, and so we must become more aware of relationality instead of contining to think that beings, things, and truths are objects in the world. His concerns about technology (like cars) were that they make life so livable that we forget about them and just coast through life. When things are vorhanden (sorry for the typo in the previous post), or present-at-hand, we simply use them and they become part of us, not even recognized as tools anymore. Zuhanden, or ready-to-hand, is a mode of being wherein we are aware of things as tools. Interestingly, this often happens when things break, i.e., when the muffler of your car is suddenly dragging on the ground creating (dangerous) sparks. We can actively analyze our relations to things and others, but this becomes ever more difficult with ever more technological dependence.
Granted, even Heidegger had no clear sense of what is too much technology or just which ones create the more disconcerting problems. But I think this is exactly my concern with cars being necessary, or even sufficient) for freedom. I've got legs that can carry me places. I could get a bike. Horses are handy for getting around. Trains are even faster than cars, sometimes. Planes are seriously faster. What if I want to travel over water? My car wouldn't help unless there was already a bridge built. So, I do think it's wrong to connect cars and freedom so closely. Phenomenology (a la Husserl, Sarte, Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir, and Fanon each more than Heidegger) is better. Freedom is about being actional. If Aunt B feels most actional with the aid of a car, then good for her for having one and making fantastic use of it (and sometimes picking me up along the way). But the car itself is not your freedom.

12/13/2004 05:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, a few things:

1.) Can we start a gynomobile club?

2.) What's odd in light of your post is that I had to use my car to get to public transportation, but I still felt utterly trapped because I could not control when and how I got there and then I had to figure out how to handle a sick car. Also, this was subrban transporation that is too far to walk to. I would have liked to have not gone anywhere and stayed where I was and slept and looked at books all day, but the idea of being trapped in the middle of the day when I had to be somewhere created instant paranoia. And even though it all happened at 9 this morning I'm still jumpy.

3.) The old man from triple A who came to start my car (may he be forever blessed by all that capable of blessing) won me over completely when he said, "We're going to get this car started, you and me. We can do it!" He did not put a kerchief on his head, nor was he flexing his bicep when he said it. And we both cheered strange cheers (me: "Score!" him: "Got the _____!" where _____ is not appropriate to put on another person's web thang) after he did things to the battery and I gunned the motor so that lots of exhaust came out of the back and the red flame (what I call my car, I don't know why) finally turned over as if giving up and then started in all its midsize four door glory. Imagine the roar of a bad ass car divide that in half. Now you've got it.

4.) Random, unflushed out thought...if cars are so connected in our minds to freedom and there's the whole women car concept...what does it mean if you are the sort of woman who knows as little as possible about your car and how to deal with it? I mean, not all men know how to fix cars and do things to them and I don't mean everyone should go out and become a mechanic, but...if it is that important its probably worth knowing the basics, right? Not maybe how to do an oil change but things like, if the oil light goes on don't drive, how to put in wiper fluid, what to do about a flat. I know oil changes are easy, but I understand they can be a pain. I guess I didn't mean for this to become a learn some basic car maintenance public service announcement, I just think it is interesting what it might mean if the symbol/thing of one's freedom isn't understood on some basic practical level. Does it make you more free if you don't understand it and yet you let it carry you away anyway? Or does it make you more free if you know the practicial basics so that you have the power to perpetuate that freedom when necessary and possible within reason?

I'm as guilty about not knowing how to do things to my car as the next person that's guilty of it (about a month ago I learned to put air in my tires...shut up...the person who taught me didn't make any comments) but maybe I shouldn't be. I'll think about that when I start my car tonight to make sure it hasn't gotten too cold and when I go buy some heet tomorrow to make sure I'm all stocked up.

I probably don't have to drive until the end of the week, but cross your fingers or light some candles or say some prayers or do a little luck dance or whatever you do for the red flame anyway. Sadly, I don't remember any Heidegger to put in here.


12/13/2004 05:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh wow...the Professor and I were posting at the same time. Now this car thing is getting freaky...since I woke up in the middle of the night last night and thought, half awake, "The car won't start tomorrow" and then I told myself that was silly, it probably would start, and to go back to sleep. And then she and I were posting about cars at the same time.

Yes, that's a leap. Yes, I'm just looking for goofy connections. Yes, I'm going to get back to accomplishing things now. No, if I wake up with a random troublesome thought tonight you can bet I'm not going back to sleep but I'll get right on that stick.

And I love the concept of not being good at the mechanical/material. I think that's a good way to explain that.


12/13/2004 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

You could indeed get a bike or, if the Sheik is still looking for something to get you for Christmas, you could get a horse, I suppose. But where would you keep it? Also, where near your home will you catch a train?

The good thing about tossing around ideas is that you get to test them out and see what others think of them. So, I'm just going to say that my problem with Heidegger's unease with technology is that it's so quaint. Where is the technology-less past located? Before the industrial revolution? Before metal alloys? Before ships? Before fire? We are the ape with tools. Which tools would he have us be constantly aware of? Shoes, fire, flouride, watches, concrete? Also, what's the problem with coasting through life with the aid of tools? Easy enough for a ... [I was going to drag Martin's personal history into this, but let's leave his fate to himself.]... easy enough for him to say, from where he's sitting, that we ought to constantly be aware. What a luxury!*

But some of us, myself probably most of all, have a tendancy to live too much in our heads and not enough in our bodies, and if something--car, horse, roller coaster, drugs, whatever--allows us to shut off that constant internal dialog and just live, just be present in the moment, how can that not be a good thing?

And if only briefly, one's car allows her to forget the things tying her down, and to be, just for a little while, unteathered from the rest of us... how fundimetally American is that?

Send her down the river on a raft, through the desert on a horse with no name, home with her new husband on a bicycle built for two, dreaming that "If they freed me from this prison, if that railroad train were mine, you know I'd drive it on a little farther down the line." But moving. Always moving.

Back to what the Professor says, being actional.

*I not only think sitting around thinking--as is my favorite passtime--is a luxury, and we ought to never forget what a luxury that is, it also, in the case of Heidegger, leads me to wonder if he realized what kind of necromancer he was, talking to dead men and folks not yet born, about things no ordinary person could see or taste or touch. So interested in being in relation to things (people) that are no longer or not yet real...

12/13/2004 08:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my gracious! I'm having car problems TOO! I thought I just needed a re-alignment, but found myself and my dog UNDERNEATH my car yesterday with three mechanics who were clicking their tounges and saying, "Just wanted you to have a look at this, honey (?!)" and then he wiggled the wheel and the axel (is that what it's called?) wobbled and apparently this was a bad sign. Then I thought, cars are like toys while I was there underneath my car with three mechanics and my dog. I had an Annie Warbucks toy car when I was little and my cousin bent that axel and then it only drove in circles. My big girl car has a screwed up axel and I don't drive in circles, I just run the risk of crashing and dieing, but still. It's similar. Maybe. Oh. And the mechanics had dog treats for my dog. Little morsels in the shape of hot dogs. I like my mechanics. Even if they call me "honey". They have dog treats and that says something.

-lower case b

12/14/2004 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger The Corporate Shill said...

My fear is that I've posted this so far into the conversation that nobody will ever read it.

Legal Eagle and I started new jobs a few months ago and long story short, we are both currently driving more than 50 miles (one way) to work every day. We both work in the same area and the move is imminent (first week of January, loyal TCP readers) but for the past 6 months we have been carpooling. And this is not just stressful because of the time we spend trapped in the car together, trapped in traffic, etc. But because I get super pissy when I can't come and go as I please.

Sometimes, it doesn't matter, but I don't work downtown anymore so I can't walk to various lunch spots. I have to plan ahead for meetings in other buildings. And I HATE HATE HATE that I can't leave when I'm ready. Usually he gets here too early, sometimes too late and I'm always ready to leave 15 minutes before him (at least) in the mornings. And of course, he always has to drive.

And I think he likes it. Actually, I know he does. He is on record as saying, well, this way you'll leave work at a decent hour. And he gets this weird look on his face if I decide on a random morning I'm going to drive myself to the office. (He also assumes, correctly, that I will stop at Starbucks, which he does not like.)

It's the loss of choice and control that makes me crazy. I feel like everything is done on someone else's terms. I know there are people who carpool together for YEARS. We are not those people.

It ain't Heidegger but, remember, I'm THE CORPORATE SHILL. It's all about me and my yuppie gripes! Count me in for club gynomobile.

12/15/2004 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Hmm. Corporate Shill, I feel for you; I do. Unfortunately for you, I'm no advice columnist. Fortunately for you, I read a lot of them. Here's what I'd guess their answers would be:

Sars at Tomato Nation: You only have a couple of weeks left. Suck it up. If that doesn't work, you're going to have to talk to your husband about it. If he doesn't respond to your needs, kick him to the curb.

Miss Manners: Perhaps your husband could be given something to occupy his time--like a coffee grinder--and then he could be in charge of the coffee, which would give him a feeling of control over something.

Dear Prudence: When I was married to one of my ex-husbands, he used to pull nonsense like this all the time. Unfortunately for Prudy, he was using the car during the day to have an affair with a friend of his dreadful mother. Check your mileage.

Dan Savage: The perfect partner has to be Good, Giving, and Game. If your spouse has a domination fetish that reveals itself by him wanting to dominate the driving, you should indulge him. It'll make your sex life better.

Dr. Drew: Clearly, you don't give your husband the affection he needs and your frigidness is leading him to act out in ways you perceive as negative. You need to stop doing drugs and get some counceling for the sexual abuse you endured as a child. You were molested. You may not be able to admit it, but you were. So was your husband. So was that guy over there. So was that last caller. So will be the caller after next.

Ann Landers:

Oops, I guess dead people don't say anything.

12/15/2004 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger The Corporate Shill said...

It's like the Talk Soup of advice columns!

Spot on. And I'm still laughing.

12/15/2004 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Sheik said...

the sparks were not dangerous. as for the rest, you people are crazy.

12/17/2004 10:32:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home