Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Drive Theory

The fuel tank is like the libido, the accelerator the ego, and the superego the brakes. The carburetor, which essentially turns fuel into energy, might pass for sublimation. This is the essence of what is known as drive theory, both in automotive repair and psychoanalysis. Looked at more globally, the car is the body and the driver is the brain. Using these analogies, what can we say about the Gulf oil spill, about the fact that the biggest market for American cars may be China, about the fact that a car that once had a sterling reputation for dependability—the Toyota—turned out to be the equivalent of a mad rapist, with its accelerator pedal stuck to the floor? And what about Chevrolet, which refuses to be called Chevy? Does that remind you of a girl in college named Frances who spent a semester abroad and came back as Françoise. And what about the hybrids, which reduce fuel consumption by relying on electricity, the way men get their charge from Viagra? And what about cruise control? Where does that fit into the picture? And what is the significance of the popular radio show Car Talk, which is today’s Dr. Ruth? People used to want to hear about orgasm and erection and now they’d rather talk about spark plugs and miles-per-gallon. The car has lost its fins; there are no eccentric old Edsels, De Sotos, or god-like old Mercuries parked at the drive-in. The Saturn retains a mythological name, but lacks mystique, and the DeLorean went back to the future. The Escalade has replaced the old Caddy, and yet, when it comes down to it, there’s still nothing to compete with a new set of wheels.

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