Coming of Age on Wheels
People usually think of mobility when they think about cars. However, while auto-mobility represents the main way in which cars for many young people offer an escape. They may also be used for other activities, many of which are incompatible with the act of driving. A car is also a “little living room,” “sonic envelope,” or an “acoustic cocoon” that provides a sense of privacy, a space in which individuals manage access to their domain and move away from reality.
Dr. Daniel Albero Santacreu treated the cars of young people on the small island of Mallorca, Spain (and his home) as archaeological dig sites, yielding an intricate understanding of their vulnerabilities and resilience.
What a fantastic article (it made me think incredibly fondly back to a UK magazine called Intersection, available in the early part of the millennium. It’s kinda here online, but I have no idea what publication dates are, where to buy etc – http://www.intersectionmagazine.com. Reason for the remembering: it was a lifestyle magazine built around the car, but not really about cars. Or a car magazine about lifestyle, but not really about lifestyle)
Thinking back to my own first days on the road, solo, c1999, my first car (1968 VW Beetle) was anthropomorphised into ‘Agent Dan’ – an undercover cold war era being with a personality and temperament all of its own.
It really was more than a set of wheels – freedom and access to friends without a need to rely on anyone else. Exploration, meetups with friends, the social cachet of being able to drive to school etc.
Driving VWs, or classic Toyota MR2s, you’d get nods or waves from other owners as you passed them on the roads. There was a rolling community of people who you’d probably never meet, but who were all linked by a common love of their particular automotive niche. Occasionally you’d find notes under your windscreen wipers from other owns asking for recommendations or sharing information about car club meet ups.
You simply don’t get that now, especially in the UK with bland euroboxes. No one has ever waved to my in my Toyota IQ. That’s something that is missing – and something which made the world a slightly nicer place.
The rolling extensions of our living rooms are becoming ever more separate as car and soul are divided in two…
Agreed, Neil. The nostalgia of road travel was a big part of the inspiration for the Peeps team in choosing this piece, and Daniel’s work is thought provoking, even in this AC (After Corona) world.
Absolutely – and AC is about right!
You might like this, showing how young people are using their vehicles to escape coronavirus, even for just a short while (according to research): https://www.itv.com/news/2020-05-25/young-drivers-resort-to-auto-isolation-to-escape-people-they-live-with-poll/
What an AWESOME article, Neil. Mind if we use it as a curation next week when we’re promoting this article in social media? 🙂
Go for it!
in addition to my previous link, I think folks who enjoyed this article will also dig this BBC Thinking Allowed podcast: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9pb25vLmZtL3Jzcy9jaGFuLzIzNzE/episode/aHR0cDovL2lvbm8uZm0vZS85MzI3MjA?ep=14
Their ‘blurb’ says: “Cars: How do cars transmit our identities behind the wheel? Laurie Taylor explores the meaning of cars from Bradford to China.”
It’s a really good example of all of the points made here. Reminds me not only of one of my favourite magazines of all time (Intersection, now sadly defunct I think: http://www.intersectionmagazine.com/ ) but also my time in the VW community. We loved our cars, rust buckets as some of them were. We loved their identity and the tribal elements that transcended age, gender, life situation etc.
Thanks so much for sharing (though we beat Laurie to the punch by several months ;)). Your podcast recommendations are always exceptional :). It was a great listen, Neil, you’re right. The difference between the two cultures is interesting though. While in China the car is a tool to meet family obligations that, as discussed in Issue 1’s “Winning in Losing in Modern China” are increasingly difficult for the new middle class to meet, in Spain it’s about individuation from family or getting the space they need to build adult lives of their own.