For Americans, Cars Are a Closet on Wheels
LIANE HANSEN, host:
You're listening to Weekend Edition from NPR News. Americans love their stuff and are accustomed to taking that stuff anywhere. Authorities now have severely limited what can be carried onto a plane. A car, however, is a different story. Here's essayist Diane Roberts.
Professor DIANE ROBERTS (Florida State University): My mother rides a sledgehammer around with her, also a belt sander, a machete, a roll of picture wire, a hand drill, a foot stool, four umbrellas, three cane poles, a can of gummy worm lures, a family pack of Hershey bars, a bunch of Ziploc bags, a shovel, and a box of Milk Bone.
She says one never knows when one might need to make friends with a dog. She uses the shovel to dig clay when she finds a nice, dark vein in some hillside and puts the clay in the Ziploc bags to keep it moist. I choose not to know what she does with the other objects in her car.
I also choose not to inquire too deeply into the whys and wherefores of the guy across the street who's got holy statues and sacred candles in his Accord: the Virgin of Guadalupe, the infant of Prague, Saint Barbara, the seven African powers. He's got a rubber ducky in there too. He's a lawyer.
My friend Jackson drives a Volvo. It's so clean. I mean he dusts it. He keeps a .38 in the glove box, however. He says it's for snakes. The .30 in the trunk is for armadillos. The bottle of '92 Pinot Noir in the backseat is for emergencies.
See, emergencies are much on our minds, what with the hurricanes and all the unnatural disasters over the last couple of years. So a lot of people around here have taken to stowing necessities in their vehicles. A lady I know hauls a case of bottled water, a case of canned tuna, a six-pack of D cells, a four-pack of duct tape, a copy of hymns, ancient and modern, a quart of Channel No. 22, a box containing her collection of Hummel figurines, a canoe paddle, and a miniature safe where she keeps her passport, her will, her insurance file, her wedding album, and $5,000 in euros.
I don't know. I can't really get into that apocalyptic mindset, though in my Honda you'll find the Swiss army knife, Bengal roach spray, handcuffs, a world atlas, and a spare pair of Steve Madden shoes, pointy toes, kitten heels. I'm trying to cut down on the books. I know the extra weight reduces my gas mileage something fierce. So the complete works of Henry James had to go. Clarissa and The Brothers Karamazov too. I'm keeping Roget's Thesaurus under the seat though, and the Concise Oxford Dictionary. It's a scary new world out there and I don't want to find myself at a loss for a word.
HANSEN: Diane Roberts drives her overloaded car around Tallahassee, Florida where she's professor of English at Florida State University.
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