Why People Like Cars: an outsider looking in

Walking my bike home last night weighed down with groceries, I was alternating between one hand holding onto the handlebars and the other recovering some feeling stuffed into my jacket. Squeezing between a tree and other pedestrians on the narrow sidewalk I heard the rumble of the parked car to my right turning on. The headlights flashed out into the gutter and I imagined myself having also just stepped into a car, turning the key in the ignition and awaiting the whirring of the heater on full.

 

The confines of the cabin become a private space; a brief glance around the inside of the car while it warms up and you expand with the heating vibrations in the air, filling the interior completely.

That was my dream as I walked home from Chinatown, but it struck me that this was one large component of the appeal of cars – a place to put your groceries and not have to account for the personal space of the next person on the sidewalk, or on the bus. A heater on a cold day, as warm or as cold as desired and the ability to drive your own route, taking no extra time to wait at someone else’s most convenient stop – these are immediate appeals for a private car buyer that have nothing to do with my love for cars.

My obsession, I fear, keeps me from knowing well how other people assess cars, or how they think and feel about them. It means I trust the opinions of others on cars, believing my enthusiast’s opinions to be part of an unrepresentative minority. But I don’t mind any of the doubts or any of the uncertain thoughts I have about cars; I love even to think about cars, and having my dream walking home reminded me so well of how it was to rush into the family car on a cold night with the repeated motions of finding the ignition and the heater knob.

And I remembered the look out through the hazy windshield onto the dark, illuminated by sparse orange street lamps.

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