Cars Are Symbols Of Consumerism And Status


One big reason why I read so much is because I find a lot of topics fascinating. One really cool side effect of having such a broad appetite is that I got a ton of interesting little bits of trivia stored in my head.

One of my favorites, for some reason I can’t explain, is this one: the first driver’s license was given in 1886. It’s funny to think that almost exactly a hundred years before I was born, some random person would become a footnote in history for something even our grandparents took for granted.

Well, most of our grandparents. My grandparents on both sides of the family grew up very poor; even the mass-produced Ford Model-Ts were as mysterious and as untouchable to them as a Ferrari would be to most people now. Heck, my dad’s parents never even went to high school, so they wouldn’t have been able to drive even if they had the financial means.

So my mom and dad had to learn to use public transportation earlier than most; my dad was taking the subway downtown by the time he was thirteen; my mom was allowed to take rides on the public buses by herself by the time she was six.

I think as early as three or four, my parents took me to go see a Blue Jays game. The sound of the train coming down the tunnel still makes me shiver after all this time. It’s like a sandworm charging down a canyon. Even after all this time, it’s still an intimidating experience

You’re probably asking yourself what the big deal is, which is perfectly understandable; hundreds of thousands of people take the subway every day in Toronto alone.. Let’s move away from the platform for a minute so I can explain.

Now, we all know that getting a driver’s license is a big step in everybody’s lives. It’s arguably just as important as your first job, your first crush, you’re first kiss ect. Now, imagine knowing as you grow up that, because of something that happened to you when you were born, an accident completely out of your control, there would be no way you would be able to drive.

As you may have read on my profile, I have a minor case of cerebral palsy, and that is absolutely true; I don’t use canes, crutches or mobile aids, I don’t have slurred speech, my body moves just fine. It would be impossible to tell if you ever met me in real life that I have a disability at all. My body reacts twenty percent slower than normal.

That apparently counts for a lot when you’re on the road, and you have to make split-second decisions. It’s really a shame too; my dad was a good driver, and unfortunately, life kept him from sharing that particular aspect of male bonding with me and my brother.

Thankfully, seeing as how I live in such a great, inclusive society, I have access to transportation services for the disabled. But that comes with its own problems. Don’t get me wrong, the people who chauffeur my lazy ass around are friendly, helpful and punctual (for the most part).

You have to see it from my point of-view; here I am, a twenty-something guy, and I’m sitting next to an old lady, or behind someone in a wheelchair. What if I wanted to go on a date? Unlikely right now perhaps, but very possible; the girl would have to pick me up, which, as countless Hollywood films have taught us, means that I’m a loser.

Yes, I am completely aware that if I did manage to find Ms, Right, she wouldn’t care. She’d take me wherever we wanted to go without a fuss . But logic would have a long fight to worm its way past a huge wall of guilt and envy that I’ve built up over the years.

If I sound like a spoiled brat to any of you reading this, I want you to consider a couple of things.

Think of every car ad you’ve seen. What is portrayed in those commercials? Either a young, hip couple, going out for an evening on the town, or a young family going on a trip; so all these ads usually sleek futuristic looking convertibles or minivans.

Or here’s a really annoying example, in a entirely different context: hip hop videos. Hot young ladies soaping up the car in skimpy clothes, grinding against the sides of the incredibly sleek sports car in the foreground or background, splayed across the hood like a living, breathing ornament.

Cars are status symbols, I’m sure everyone is aware of this; they represent that big turning point in a person’s life, when they take that big step into freedom and responsibility. Once you turn sixteen, you know that you will be driving, maintaining, and paying for that amazing piece of technology for the rest of your life. So will you’re children and theirs. That part of life shall be forever out of my reach.

Cars don’t just represent freedom and maturity. They also represent financial success. Here’s another cool piece of trivia for you; back in ancient Rome, owning a horse was the same as owning a car; if you were an equestrian, it meant you were fairly well-off, basically part of the middle class. Heck, my book collection may have caught the eye of some pretty woman back in the day, when books were far rarer and therefore more precious.

Now, we also got cars, tablets, smartphones; things the Romans or the richest nobles of the Middle Ages couldn’t even comprehend owning. But we still want that Ferrari instead of our boring old Pontiac or Prius. And only the most rich hard-core gamers can afford playing the latest iteration of Halo or Grand Theft Auto on their multiscreen beast of a rig, with 1080 HD graphics, 7.1 Surround Sound, at 120-frames a second.

Oh, and I forgot to mention one other thing. My transportation service can only take me around the immediate area; so I have trouble getting around even then. My mom can’t drive me downtown to games and appointments forever, and what about when my brother (hopefully) starts a family of his own? I can take the bus right?

I can get taxied around whenever I want to go to the movie theatre. And I know these guys who chauffeur me around are providing a good service to community so they could feed their families. I’ll never say a bad word about them.

Every time I’m stuck waiting outside in the dead of Canadian winter, feeling my feet go numb because my ride is over half an hour late, I feel unhappy and unfulfilled. “If only I could drive!” I mutter to myself. So, do I blame myself? Or do I blame the advertisers and the entertainment industry for messing with tender young psyche since I could craw to the TV and watch the commercial breaks?

featured image – Flickr / ** RCB **