On Cars

Written by Mike Parish, Illustrated by Dan Tarnowski
On Cars

Here In My Car

If there is one thing that America revolves around it is cars. Look at the infrastructure of any major city or suburb or country town. Roads lead up to everything because most people use a car as their main means of getting places. It is as if the landscape were a gigantic rubber band ball, with each rubber band representing a road, intersecting any number of other roads and covering the roads of old.

The car is a relatively recent invention. The idea of a car has been toyed with since the late 1600’s, but Henry Ford popularized its production for sale to the public in the early 20th century. Today, capable of reaching speeds in excess of 200 mph, the car is the fastest means of land travel known to man. All one has to do is push on a pedal and off they go.

Stand on an overpass of a highway some time and imagine just the people inside all of the cars. In your mind, make the cars invisible and just picture how the people are moving through space. Their bodies are in a sitting position and hovering in midair while simultaneously flying forward. Ah, the ease of modern car travel!

A Bit About Roads

Which came first, the car or the road? Roads in some form predate cars easily; when people walked from place to place, trails formed (I’ve heard a discernible trail is impressed upon the earth when just one person creates a new path) and horse drawn carriages and wagons, etc. have always needed roads to amble down. It is interesting to note that many roads got there start as footpaths meant for walking. Today, simply crossing the street can be dangerous.

Cars and roads exist together in a positive feedback cycle. As cars became more and more prevalent in our culture and society, more roads were needed to accommodate car travel. Along with electricity and the computer, cars are a landmark invention that changed everything.

Cars changed the way humans interacted with and altered their natural environments as well as how they thought about time and space in terms of travel. Instead of taking a leisurely five-minute drive to the park, one might have to take a half hour walk. A likely question that follows then is: Have cars actually spread people further apart, from resources, from places, from each other?

Isolation Chamber

Unless you’re traveling with others, driving a car is a solitary experience. The noise that the engine creates effectively cuts out the noise of the outside world, and so does the metal and plastic frame of your cockpit. Everyone driving down a road is driving down it in their own separate world, a neat little moving package transporting them from place to place.

For Love of Cars

Some people love their cars. Some people pour entire paychecks into excessively outfitting their automobiles and wonder what happened to all their cash. Some people sit in the road washing and cleaning their cars and from the looks of it, take better care of their cars than they do of themselves.

There is too much of a preoccupation in today’s world about stuff. Cars are a crowning example. Nothing lasts forever, especially machines, so why stress over a few scratches, why stress cosmetics over function, why live a life in pursuit of perfection?

Where We’re Going, We Need Roads

Will we ever move past automobiles? Will there ever come a day when the streets are filled in with grass or homes or benches or playgrounds, when we reclaim the air from the incessant humming of combustion engines? What would a world without cars look like? What would it sound like? Can you even imagine a world as strange as that?

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