People Are Just Like Cars

The Friday Column: People are Just Like Cars, Except We Don’t Junk Them.

Every year, car manufacturers come out with a new model car. This new car is always shinny and fresh and clean and packed with all the technological knowhow that you could possibly imagine. When the dealership man drives up for the drop off, it’s greeted with oohs and ahhs. We are impressed by its speed, its modernity, it limitless potential. And we begin to grow attached to it, to glow with pride when we see it dash off down the road or call home via the Bluetooth or travel 1,000 miles without having to fill up the gas tank.

But then, next year, too, there’s a new model. And this one now comes with the best engine, the best physique, the best tech. It makes the old one look exactly that: Old. And a little outdated. A little washed up. Lacking in innovation and panache. It doesn’t warm up so quick now on cold mornings, and when it does get going, its alignment is wonky and one knee is bum. There’s new technology now, too, and though the old car can download it, it can’t install. What’s more, whereas the old car used to be so adventuresome and outgoing, there’s parts of the city now that the old car just simply won’t go to.

Simply put, we no longer look at this car and say, There it is, the car that’s going to change the world. This car had its chance. Now, it’s the new car’s turn.

But we keep driving the old car, keep letting it chug along. There are some things the car can do to spruce itself up: An oil change, new tires, new brake pads. Sometimes it gets a whole new paint job or a new spouse. It does yoga and Transform Your Life Classes or goes back to school. But it is still old and the road belongs to the new model now, the model that runs on electricity now and can connect to the Internet.

It does its best, the old car, until it doesn’t. And we figure it’s finally time to let it go. So, we list it on AutoTrader.com, talking about its very measured and capable handling, its reliability, its up-to-date insurance policy. And when it doesn’t sell, we put it on Craigslist, thinking we might have luck there. But we don’t and we know what comes next: We take one last drive with it through town, down by the river it liked so much, past the old ice cream parlor and the barbershop where it used to tell off-color jokes with the other graying and fattening old cars, to the local junkyard, where we give it to the junkman and he breaks it down for scrap.

People are exactly like cars. Except for that last part. Obviously, we don’t break them down for scrap. That would be wrong.

Instead, old-model people stick around, getting older, their beliefs growing more outdated, their uselessness with new technology growing more and more pronounced. But still they remain and still they have a say over what happens in the world. Maybe even more because its the old-model people who don’t work anymore or have anything to do all day #VoterTurnout.

That’s what the Mid-Term Elections made me think about and that’s something that we younger-model people forget. We think we’re slick with our athleisure and inclusiveness, our distributive start-ups and Internet savvy. We think the roads are ours to be re-made wholly in our image. But they aren’t. Not yet. The old models are still around, grumbling along, complaining about how the world’s changing and biding their time to flex their muscles come next election cycle.

And pretty soon, that’ll be us too.




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