• Column: Taking the fun out of the automobile

    by  • July 18, 2013 • Editorial • 1 Comment

    By Chris Benevento, News Staff

    As I exited the Avis office and walked through the 90 degree parking lot towards my rental, a Dodge Avenger, I found myself examining it aesthetically. How the body of the car reminded me of an Autobot, how it was made to appear sporty and fast. When I got in and turned the key, I listened and heard the effortless turnover of the engine – almost robotic in smoothness and uniformity. Pulling out of the rental lot in Woburn, I heard the measured purr of the engine and felt the smoothness of the ride.

    When I reached the first stoplight, I realized something:  I really hated this car.

    I didn’t hate it for the brand or the model or even the color. I didn’t hate it for the style, how fast it went or how it handled. I hated it for what it represented.

    Cars today have no heart. They don’t give me the same thrill or general warmness inside that cars of the 1980s and 1990s do.

    They are too predictable. Too measured.

    In my short career as a driver, I have spent more on car repairs and parts than I did on the vehicles themselves. I have experienced extreme stress and anger as a result of my cars. I have even created Craigslist ads after being let down by the car for what was supposed to be “the last time.”

    But I like it. I like the emotional roller coaster of owning a used car from the 1990s. It creates a unique bond between the car and driver – a bond that is strengthened with each drive. The car takes on a personality of its own.

    Cars today are digital robots that only exist to get the driver from A to B. There’s no trial, no struggle, no excitement. There’s no room for any bond and certainly no reason to go for a drive just to drive. They’re all business, which is no fun.

    There are no more quirks.

    I liked not knowing if the gas gauge in my old Saab 9-3 was accurate and finding the answer stranded on the side of a dark Interstate 93 in New Hampshire. Since that incident, I have learned exactly where the needle needs to be when I stop for gas.

    I liked getting into my car every morning and holding my breath while waiting for the car to turn over. The start time would differ each morning and no two were alike.

    I liked pulling over to mend a spurting radiator hose under the hood with hockey tape because I had nothing else at the time.

    These experiences, while trying at the time, brought me closer to my cars than I could ever feel with the artificial feeling cars of today. While fuel efficiency and reliability have seen major improvements over the years they have taken away the soul and character of the automobile.

    My father once told me that a car is “the worst investment you’ll ever make.” And he was right; even today’s cars depreciate and require regular repairs. But the security people feel with them and the lack of knowledge people have regarding their own cars are casualties of the times and have taken a lot of the emotion out of driving.

    Chris Benevento can be reached at comments@HuntNewsNU.com.

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    The Huntington News is the student newspaper of Northeastern University.

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