Outsider in My Own Country (Parts 10 & 11 of 13)
What it’s like to be different from most of my co-citizens in many ways
“In a sense the car has become a prosthetic, and though prosthetics are usually for injured or missing limbs, the auto-prosthetic is for a conceptually impaired body or a body impaired by the creation of a world that is no longer human in scale.”
I am missing the car gene that appears to be present in so many of my fellow Americans. I understand the allure of having one’s own car: it’s a sign of independence, via which you can go wherever you want to go whenever you want to go there. This is very much part of the American spirit.
During my high school years, when everyone wanted to be able to drive and own a car, I was only partially on board. Yes, I wanted to drive. At the time, it was possible to get a driver license in New York state at the age of 17 if you took a driver education class at your high school. I did that during the summer between my junior and senior years. I got the license.
My mother had a car, and she was very flexible about my being able to drive it, which was good enough for me. I was well aware of the fact that I not only didn’t know anything about the mechanics of how a car worked, but I didn’t want to learn about it. I couldn’t imagine myself learning how to do tune-ups, changing spark plugs, checking and changing motor oil, or anything of the sort.
Very early on in my teenage years, I heard some family members talking about the costs related to maintaining cars. I learned a valuable lesson from hearing these conversations: as soon as you drive a new car off of the lot, it loses value. With that, I understood a car to be a money pit. Why put time and money into something that continually has to be maintained, and ultimately replaced, at a high cost?
Not only do many Americans have cars, but they use their cars as part of their identity. In Los Angeles, for example, it is common for people to ask others, “What do you drive?” as a means of being able…