Monday, 21 January 2013

Why is a man’s car his faithful companion?


Oh look, I’ve got a metallic silver car that’s invisible in fog, so I know what I’ll do. When it’s really foggy, I won’t drive with my lights on. All you others drivers have lit headlights, so why should I? 

Even better, if I can find a red car, a really safe colour which stands out, then I’ll just drive really close to their rear bumper. That way I can feed off the safety of their car colour and their fog lights, while still posing a threat to my safety, theirs and everyone else’s.

I’d much rather save my fab fog lights for a night when the air is clear, so that I can completely dazzle and harass other drivers with the brilliance of my lights. If I get the angle just right, they’ll be completely blinded when they look in their rear view mirror!

Is it arrogance or pure idiocy that affects the minds of some Irish drivers? You’re much more safety-conscious than you used to be. For rainclouds, dusk and dawn your headlights are lit, dipped and lovely. But for a reason I cannot fathom, when the fog comes down, there’s a high percentage of you that decide to drive blind.

No, you’re not blind (I hope!) but we cannot see you. Metallic silver is a popular yet fantastically dangerous car colour, which makes me wonder at the wisdom of recently selling my much beloved Shiny Car, (a bright red Toyota Corolla), and purchasing a metallic silver Suzuki Liana.

The new car’s called Bennett, after my much-missed friend Lee-Ann, who many years ago appeared in this colyoom as Artist In Blue Towel. So what’s the deal with giving my cars names? Isn’t it a bit twee and cutie pie and not very male at all?

Well, ironically, the habit started when I was a teenager, driven by unreconstructed male behaviours. In every imaginable way, I was driven by motor bikes. I rode them, dreamed of them, and hung around with a pack of bikers who all gave names to their choppers (and their bikes, arf!).

So when at the age of 17 I bought my first car, it seemed natural to give it a name. And lo, verily, its name sung out from its registration plate: BKX 458F. Box! It had to be called Box, and it was a box. 
A lime green mini van (not the modern people carrier, this was 1977!) it was a small square van-car, which I promptly decked out with shagpile carpet, cushions and wallpaper in the back, for the sole purpose of impressing the birds.

What proved less impressive to the birds was that I didn’t know there was a hole half way up the petrol tank, so when filled with petrol, the contents of the top half of the tank spilled out onto the road below.

The ladies in the back, excited to accept my offer of a lift to the pub,were less enthralled when they could barely breathe through the toxic fumes, while I screamed at them to please please refrain from lighting that ciggie, ‘cos it’ll blow us all to kingdom come!

Box was followed by a dark green long and bulbous Vauxhall Viva Estate (HB SL90, since you ask, guv’nor) which bore an uncanny resemblance to Thunderbird 2, so rather imaginatively I called it TB2, a choice which proved perfect when I traded it in for a smaller pale blue Vauxhall Viva saloon, which naturally had to be called TB1.

Around this time I was temping as a caretaker/driver in an import-export company. What I great gig! Most days I was given a sparkly Daimler and sent off to drive around London to pick up clients from Heathrow Airport.

That beautiful car whetted my appetite for driving fine motors, which later became available to me in the form of company cars. From my very first ‘new’ Escort as a lowly sales rep in 1981, I rose up the corporate ranks until two years later I was a right little marketing whizz-kid. Then I had use of a range of luxury motors including Audis 80 and 100, a Ford Granada and an Alfa Romeo. Company cars were fantastic. I was given a petrol agency card, set loose on the road, and I loved it.

But I hated my job, so I left, and working as a scribbler ever since, my cars have been second hand. Long-suffering Colyoomistas might recall Betsy the Blue Bubble, a Mazda in which I drove to all four corners of this island, and then Shiny Car, whose big ends were finally going. So I invested in Bennett, who despite already having a name as yet displays no personality.

Why bother to anthropomorphise my cars? Why refer to lumps of metal as if they have emotions? For want of a better expression, it feels like a relationship between me and my steed.

Sometimes these strange emotions can be expressed at very inopportune times. Back when I was driving TB2, I was entangled in a platonic love affair with a lass whose father was not a big fan of my presence.

She lived in a posh suburb, in a detached house up a sloping driveway. Her dad had just spent a fortune laying his drive with the latest trendy purple tarmac. One night as I pulled in to pick her up, TB2’s engine decided to die rather spectacularly, vomiting a sump full of foul engine oil all over his driveway.

While her dad wailed as a sizeable slick of black oil ran down his purple hill, all I could do was stand bereft, softly intoning

“TB2 gone. TB2 dead. TB2 gone.”

He may have lost a load of dosh, but I’d lost a friend.

Anyway, now that I’ve sold my safe red car and bought a metallic silver one, I must remember to leave my lights off in the fog, so I can be invisible.

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