February 2, 2005

Must the entity comprising car and driver try to avoid having a split personality?

A colleague, asking me how I like my new car (an Audi TT Coupe), reminds me that when I first got my New Beetle, I commented that I felt compelled to drive with extra consideration for others -- e.g., smiling and nodding at drivers who yield to me, obligingly changing lanes to allow other drivers plenty of room to merge into traffic. There was something about the overall image of the happy -- smiling -- car that required the driver to have a matching personality. It's always bad to be a selfish or angry driver, but any touch of these admittedly human qualities is really going to stand out if you're driving a Beetle. It's like getting into a fistfight while wearing a peace sign. After driving the Beetle for five and a half years, I'm now faced with the notion of merging with a different car's personality. It's quite a different sort of car. Is it me? Driving, do I form a single personality with my car? But it's not so obvious what the Audi TT personality is. It's a subtle process of self-discovery. What am I like as a driver of this car? What is the integrated Ann/Audi persona? If I can't discover it, Ann/Audi will be a split personality.

5 comments:

digi said...

Dear Ann,
I hope to the devine being of your choosing that you are not serious... The fact that you have even pondered the possibility of an inanimate object having "Personality", suggests to me that your Favorite Movies list should include some film noir. In general, society for the most part has been swallowed whole by the Giant Machine (comprised of auto manufacturers, petro-chemical companies, and the media), into believing that the automobile is a natural physical extension of the human body. "If you don't have one, your physically disabled". I have an ambition of late, to live long enough to see the end of fossil fuel resources on this planet. Then I will take great pleasure in sitting on my porch and laughing at all the highly educated, over-acheiving, "analyse this to death" types that can't even bake a can of beans on an open fire without having it blow up in their face. Ann, just to let you in on a little secret, a car is a tool. I do not purchase a ball-pein hammer when the job requires a claw-hammer, as I would not buy an SUV when a smaller more economical vehicle would suffice. In the end, whatever the selection, it's not personality I'm buying, it's mobility I'm investing in. From what I have observed, Americans (for the most part) believe in "you are what you drive", and it would not surprise me in the least that what defines their choice of vehicle is personality driven. That fact that many people would rather ride along with friends, walk, or even risk bankrupcy, rather than drive a car that's not "worthy" of them is troubling. The last time I checked, GM was not offering "personality" at zero percent financing for 60 months.
Ann... you have personality, I have personality, my son and daughter have personality, my wife... now THERE'S someone with PERSONALITY! My car is a tool that affords me the necessary mobility to be a contributing member of todays societal standard. But that will change as soon as the planet runs out of fossil fuels, and we switch to bicycles of Chinese fabrication. This will of course occur AFTER the Americans plunder every square inch of the surface of the planet to keep their "personalities" on the road. After all, what has an Alaskan Elk done for EXXON lately? Gee, I wonder if the guy's over at the Hummer division can design me a Schwinn with mudders?

DT

Wendtsc said...

Dear Ann,
It is true that cars are simply plastic, rubber, and metal, but they do say something about the driver. Can a car have personality? The other comment says no, but if that is true, then explain why the millions of dollars spent on ads to convince us otherwise actually works? Ford has even gone to the extreme of shaping the driving lights on its SportKa (in Europe) to make the car look like it has fangs. Then, they had those contriversal "unauthorized" internet ads. No, a SportKa will not kill your cat or birds, but the people attracted to them now tend to be a little more aggressive. And when you look at it, you sometimes wonder if maybe you have read too much Steven King. The word "Personality" has a broader definition than the last comment accepts. Just like the word "character." We live in a world where even things like Coffeemakers and toasters have been designed to grab your attention. Everything from the houses we live in, to the Apple computers we use, to the iPods and Razrs in our pockets have character which reflects the personality of the user. The world of the last comment where cars are just tools, houses are just a large box to keep you dry and clothes are just something you wear to stay warm would be a world of Orwellian drab. Everyone would drive the same unpainted (or black) jellybean car, live in the same concrete highrise desolate apartments, and wear the same dull burlap coveralls. Wait a minute, does this sound familiar? Does that last commenter pine for the communist utopias of the past? Well folks, for those of you who think that may be too harsh or that you may agree with the Giant Machine Theory, history is on my side. People's moods, thoughts, and actions are greatly impacted by their surroundings. We can't help it. We are even willing to pay the high prices of gasoline if it means we can continue to persue our personal happiness. And when the cost of gasoline (not the environment) finally starts to drain away our happiness, we will trade in our old Chevy Tahoe for a new Tahoe that burns e85! (How about a new Hummer H2H? The H is for hydrogen.)

So, the choice is yours. A world of grays, or a world full of color!

One last thing, I happen to drive a Civic Hybrid that gets 50 MPG, but not because I give a hoot about the environment. I happen to think the "spaceship interior" is cool. Now if only they would paint them in something other than green and gray....

Drivin' in my car said...

When it comes to cars, you know I can check to see the consensus!

Bob said...

Hm. Regardless of its complexity, any machine is going to take on some sort of personality. It's partly a matter of how it was made and by whom, then how it was used, and by whom. Still, however, the machine has in it something of the soul of the maker(s) to an extent, even before a particular user gets ahold of it. Each has a history, and each one is different.
Anyway, I don't know any Audi TTs, so I don't know what they're like. I've known (owned, or been owned by,) a couple of '78 Celicas. On the one hand, Angelica didn't seem care overmuch about anything, being leasurely in acceleration no matter how it was tuned or adjusted. On the other, Emma liked to be pressed, but would become somewhat balky after too long without being washed, regardless of any mechanical settings. Ironically, it was Angelica which was totalled in a wreck, while Emma had a quarter-million miles on the odometer when it was stolen.
Now I'm just getting to know (digi's not gonna like this one bit) a Pontiac Grand Prix GT. This one is black, and has a kind of feline, even pantherish ready-to-spring aura, yet is friendly enough, maybe even a tad goofy in that it doesn't seem to take itself all that seriously. (Kind of reminds me of a particular cat I used to live with.) Here's the thing, though: I started off shopping for a Civic or Corolla when I met this car. Did I choose the car, or the car choose me? Anyway, miz D-max shows obvious signs of pamering by the previous owner, so the first place I went after taking delivery was a car wash. I think we'll get along just fine.

Bob said...

Hm. Well, here's my take on it.
Regardless of its complexity, any machine is going to take on some sort of personality. It's partly a matter of how it was made and by whom, then how it was used, and by whom. A machine has in it something of the soul of the maker(s) to an extent, as well as something of the spirit of its purpose even before a particular user gets ahold of it, to continue the process of molding the machine's personality. Each has a history, and each one is different.
Anyway, I don't know any Audi TTs, so I don't know what they're like. I've known (owned, or been owned by,) a couple of '78 Celicas. On the one hand, Angelica didn't seem care overmuch about anything, being leasurely in acceleration no matter how it was tuned or adjusted. On the other, Emma liked to be pressed, but would become somewhat balky after too long without being washed, regardless of any mechanical settings. Ironically, it was Angelica which was totalled in a wreck, while Emma had a quarter-million miles on the odometer when it was stolen.
Now I'm just getting to know (digi's not gonna like this one bit) a Pontiac Grand Prix GT. This one is black, and (unlike the jellybean) has a kind of feline, even pantherish ready-to-spring aura, yet is friendly enough, maybe even a tad goofy in that it doesn't seem to take itself all that seriously. (Kind of reminds me of a particular cat I used to live with.) Here's the thing, though: I started off shopping for a Civic or Corolla when I met this car. Did I choose the car, or the car choose me? Anyway, miz D-max shows obvious signs of pamering by the previous owner, so the first place I went after taking delivery was a car wash. I think we'll get along just fine.ivefkx