Commentary: We Are All Car Whisperers

We all do something a bit out of the ordinary with the vehicles we love, do we?

Come on, admit it. There's a bit of oddity in you. Something that stands out that you don’t want to world to see. Something you do that bucks against how you were supposed to be raised and socialized.

Supposedly, we are socialized as adults to be mature. We have to be act adult in how we treat people, our property, our pets, our prized possessions, and so forth. It is expected for us to act professionally in our work environments. It is wise for us to maintain an equal plane when dealing with our children. Any deviation is considered an abnormality in the eyes of the emotional health field.

Yet, some people treat their vehicles as part of their family. We're horse whisperers to a piece of metal, liquid, rubber and fibers. We affectionately name our vehicles. We customize them to reflect our inner and outer personalities.

In the course of 134 years, no one envisioned how much automobile ownership had become so integrated with our lives. What was considered a self-contained, self-powered alternative to the horse has become a member of the family. The expensive luxury of automobile ownership a century ago has been transformed into an opportunity for everyone to move freely about the country. That is, of course, provided you fuel it up regularly, maintain it the best you can and afford the upkeep and insurance for it.

When we become comfortable with our vehicle, it becomes us. We give it a term of endearment. We give it special treatment by giving it a wash and a vacuum from time-to-time. We might even give it a few modifications – bumper stickers, custom floor mats, steering wheel covers, body kits, better tires and rims, suspension and engine improvements, a new paint job, and anything else could think of. We even treat it for a long run to a destination that does not require mapping from your computer.

Are we considered ripe for therapy when we do special things to our vehicles we reserve for pets, homes and family? There are plenty of articles out there that say "no." As humans, we are encouraged to find outlets to de-stress from what this universe throws at us. Automobile ownership gives us permission to include that vehicle into our lives on par with pet ownership and the raising of children. In some cases, it invites us to integrate these aspects as we lay down some protection between our pet and the vehicle or to include options that would entertain our children over long distances.

Doing these things also gives us permission to name our vehicles. We invest in the maintenance and care for our automobiles – perhaps equal, if not more, than we do for the care and feeding of children and pets. If that is the case, how much more should we do to include them in our lives?

One example comes from personal experience. When my family had the 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, my mother dubbed it the "Queen Mary," named after the former Cunard cruise ship that is still permanently parked in the Port of Long Beach. The dimensions of the Olds dwarfed many vehicles on the road – save for a Cadillac, a Lincoln, and a Chevrolet Suburban. It simply rode like a cruise ship – well, it used to. Heck, you could sleep in it with reasonable comfort.

When I finally got a hold of it, I gave it a different name: "The Cruise Missile." Taking the legacy of its old name and directing to the Rocket sticker applied to the air cleaner of its 7.5-liter V8, I figured it would be appropriate considering how much power was lost over time – not just from installing emissions controls on the thing at the onset.

Even auto journalists are like you. You've seen Top Gear (the original UK version) where Jeremy Clarkson barks at the car to go faster when doing a drag race or a challenge on the show. Not all of us are like Jezza. Some of us have an affectionate side with our vehicles – even those we review for our outlets.

I know that I am tasked to ensure that I get all the data from the vehicle I could when it is being reviewed. But, sometimes, there are moments when I would end up bonding with the vehicle. You have to if you are tasked to ensure it does not have any incidents during the time of use.

The idea of bonding with a piece of transport is not the same as in the play/movie Equus. Again, we recognize that an automobile is made of metal, rubber, fiber and liquid. We know these machines are made by both humans and robots alike. Yet, some of us see them as an integral part of our lives. Frankly, that is just as healthy as finding a creative outlet or retail therapy to balance out the stress in our lives – within reason, of course.

There is a bit of Caesar Millan in all of us. We do whisper to our vehicles. Go ahead – name your car, decorate it the way you want…just remember to give it the best care you can.

Photo by Randy Stern

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