I was driving home the other day, listening to the radio, singing out loud and I felt so free from an oppression I didn’t even know I had. “I am singing in the car!” It was akin to the moment in “What about Bob” where Bob yells, “I’m sailing, I’m sailing!”
Wait. You don’t know why?
I’m a metrolink rider for over seven years. You learn to cope with mass transit and all of its upsides and downsides, for the sake of a fixed transportation cost. Lately, I find there are more downsides.
Downsides include learning intimate details of her proposal in Sedona that you never wanted to know, just because she was talking to her mom on the cell phone next to you. Or that another lady doesn’t want to tell her in-laws that she’s pregnant because she hasn’t found a way to tell her mom, whom she has to tell first, of course. And so this is a major dilemma.
Waiting on the platform for your train in all sorts of weather (thank God there is no snow here), loud teenagers endlessly searching for seats, unavailable seats because it is occupied by someone’s luggage, people having coversations all around you constantly at various volumes, sitting three inches away from complete strangers–some smell, some fall asleep on you, trying to tweet on your phone while getting bumped by people’s baggage as they carelessly walk down the aisle, listening to the click click click click of someone’s mouse behind you, et cetera ad nauseum.
It’s strange. All of this extra noise in your life. (Now to be fair, Metrolink has just recently started a quiet car program.) Either way, you cannot sing to the radio on the train. You cannot compose blog posts in your mind while you enjoy the quiet and privacy afforded to you by being alone.
At that ephoric moment singing along with the radio, a quintessentially American experience, I realized the core of what offends me about the push for all of us to become mass commuters: they want to Europeanize us and strip from us the one thing that truly makes us who we are: American.
Our culture has been shaped by many experiences, don’t get me wrong, but the vehicle gave us freedom to move and the interstate highway system facilitated a boom in travel, vacationing, and priceless childhood memories.
Here are some examples showing the impact of cars on our culture:
- Getting your driver’s license at 16 has become a rite of passage.
- People take photographs of themselves in front of their cars.
- Tailgate parties at sporting events.
- Roadtrips, car-driven vacations, to National Parks.
- There are countless songs written about driving, cars, and highways in various genres.
- There are movies about driving, roadtrips, and cars.
- KITT is a superhero car that helped Knight Rider.
- Stephen King wrote a book that featured an evil car entitled “Christine.”
- We had drive-in movie theatres, car hops, and photomats and replaced them with drive through windows for fast food, coffee, and weddings.
- Do you remember your first car? Your first roadtrip? Getting a limo and riding around after Prom or your Wedding?
Cars are part of our culture.
Make no mistake; this is a cultural war. Those who believe we should use mass transit want to take our cars away through regulation, fuel price controls, or social pressure to be “green.”
Now, I’m not for the High Speed Rail project as I think it will financially derail, but I am totally against this push for us to buy lofts and work downstairs in blighted, urban areas or live close enough to walk to work.
No. If I want to live 25 miles from my job that is my right. It’s my heritage. It’s my culture. I am an American and I won’t apologize. Instead, I’ll sing.
- New Colonist | Right of Passage vs. Right of Passage (Yes, “they” do want to change our culture).
- Reconnecting America | High Speed Rail and the Culture War (Yes, “they” want to change our culture.)
- Thoreau Institute | The Coming War on the Automobile
- Diane Harkey | Harkey Introduces California’s Lemon Law to Curtail High-Speed Spending
- Hot Rod | The Top Car Movies Ever Made and the One You Voted as the Best
- Reflections of Pop Culture | 100+ Songs About Cars & Driving
- Examiner | Higher gas prices won’t change American car culture, says transportation expert