A number of years ago I lived in a large apartment complex in the suburbs—a residence that, how should I say, sometimes made sleeping a challenge. People would come and go at all hours of the night, doors would slam, parties would linger into the wee hours. One particular night, around 3:00 a.m., I was awakened by the terrifying sounds of a woman screaming hysterically: “No. Stop it. Stop it. Put me down. Put me down.”
Fearing someone was being attacked, I jumped from my bed and ran to the window to investigate and, if possible, help. I discovered, though, that the screaming woman wasn’t being assaulted. Rather, she was being repossessed. Or at least her car was. She made the discovery in mid-repo and ran outside in her bare feet to try to keep her car from being hauled away. She jumped on the hood just as the tow truck driver was lifting it off the ground and straddled the hood ornament with her feet on the front bumper.
“No. Stop. Put me down.”
“Lady,” the tow truck operator said, “I have a letter here from the bank that says you haven’t made your payments and they want their car back.”
“Stop it. You can’t. Put me down.”
“Lady, if you don’t get down off that car right now I’m going to drive away.”
“Put me down.”
“This is your last chance, lady.”
A man of his word, the tow truck driver got in his truck, threw it in gear and drove away with this forlorn woman riding the hood of the car like a rodeo rider on a bull, screaming non-stop as he drove away: “No. Stop. Put me dowwwwwwwwwn.”
Being repossessed notwithstanding, the attachment people have with their cars is a funny thing. We spend so much time in them that, in many ways, we become a part of them and they become a part of us. We pick the color and the style to match who we are or who we think we are. Some are small and sporty, some are giant wheeled barges. Some are open so the wind can blow through our hair, some are buttoned-up and appointed with bells and whistles. People talk to their cars, give them names, curse them when they break down. I’m sure Freud found cars to be an extension of our personalities or something. “We are what we drive,” he might say.
All of this was brought to the forefront of my thinking recently for two reasons. One, because I just bought a new car after nearly 13 years in my old one. It was tough parting with that old car. There was definitely a bond between us. We shared a lot of memories and, literally, went down a lot of roads together. When I left that car at the dealership, I must admit that I looked in my mirror and became a bit misty-eyed. I bought that particular car because I felt it seemed to best fit my personality—outdoorsy, open, four-wheel-drive so I could get out of trouble just as easily as I seemed to get into it. My new one—a truck, actually—has four doors and room to haul my regular purchases from Lowe’s. It’s more family friendly and more utilitarian. Then again, so am I now.
The second reason I was thinking about the bond between people and their cars has to do with two incoming freshmen—Monica Laco of Lakewood, Ohio, and Nora Tighe of Toledo, Ohio. They are, whether they realize it or not, the beneficiaries of this odd attachment between people and their cars.
In mid-July, the national alumni association announced that Laco and Tighe were the first two winners of its newly created legacy scholarship program. Each year, starting this year, two students who are lineal descendants of a Xavier graduate each receive a $3,000 scholarship. What makes it relevant here is the money to fund such scholarships comes from people and their cars.
The state of Ohio has a special program in which the University receives $25 for each specialized Xavier license plate someone buys for his or her car. This program began a few years back, and so many people have purchased these Xavier license plates since then that the national alumni association was able to set up a special scholarship fund with the money.
Really, the two concepts were bound to be joined because about the only thing that can be equated to the bond between people and their cars is the bond between people and their college. The effort they go through to pick a college is much like a car—they research their options, consider the cost, read the reviews. They visit campuses to give the schools a metaphorical test drive and tire kick. And, ultimately, their final choice speaks directly of their personalities. “We are where we attend college,” Freud might say.
And that decision is something people carry with them throughout life—not to mention proudly display on, of course, their cars. Witness the number of people who adorn their car windows with college stickers. Or their license plate frames. Or key chains. Or front license plates. Or window flags. Or antenna toppers. The Xavier bookstore’s web site has a whole category just for auto accessories.
So it’s only natural that cars and colleges would form this bond. The attachment people have for both of them is a funny thing. And two incoming freshmen each year are laughing all the way to the bank.
Read a collection of other That Reminds Me columns.