|The Spark Plug of Life|
|October 30, 1998||Previous Tale||More Tales||Next Tale|
There's good and bad news from the automotive world. On the positive side, someone expressed interest in buying my lovely temptation, the asskicking Porsche 924 Turbo (bargain priced at $2500). This beautiful vehicle, perfectly adapted for rocketing around the sinuous back roads of rural Virginia, has proved unwieldy for my metropolitan lifestyle, as well as unmanageable for my new status as starving consultant. What I need right now is a car that's more reliable, inexpensive, practical, unexpressive, uninspiring, and pathetic. Then I'll stay indoors racking up the billable hours instead of outside pumping the pleasure pedal of my turbocharged joymobile.
The bad news is that the car, sensing I was severing my emotional ties with it, struck back with typical automotive passive-aggression. On the same day that I got the email from the potential buyer, the car developed mechanical problems that will require more time and money to fix. I'm pretty irritated with my car for trying to extort some attention out of me with this show of neediness. Unfortunately, the little red thug has me over a barrel. I may not always be deeply ethical, but I take care of my anthropomorphized dependents.
Anthropomorphism, as you may know, is the tendency to perceive human characteristics and emotions in non-sentient (even inanimate) things -- for example, seeing my car's latest mechanical glitch as an appeal for my love. Anthropomorphism ranks as one of the most powerful forces in my life. Despite my mother's best efforts to raise me in the spirit of scientific objectivism, mistrustful of the yet-unproven and a dismissive of that which is the product of faith alone, I'm still a rational shell enclosing a quivering, deeply superstitious primitive. Everything around me, if given the chance, develops a personality, drives, and feelings. The effects on everyday life are profound. I can't bring myself to throw out an old trash can, because sending it to the dump seems like a particularly cruel way to end its life. It would be like sending a cop to prison. All the other garbage would mock its hubris for having dreamed it could escape their fate. It would be humiliated.
But despite the hassles of treating the nonliving objects around me with the same respect I'd offer my close friends and family, there are some benefits granted by the gods of anthropomorphism. The gods create life where none is thought to exist, giving kitchen appliances and library books enough joie de vivre to fill an empty room.
But the gods are capricious. My car never really developed a personality. Perhaps the car was already too complex a machine to develop a life beyond its function. The gods of anthropomorphism assert their powers in simplest, most humble objects around me. They're the agents of celestial democracy, spreading the forces of vitality evenly throughout the universe. The Porsche's last mechanical appeal, sadly, won't be enough to persuade me to keep it. It has more expensive tastes than the garbage can.
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