Thursday, October 24, 2019

Pride comes from what you do




     Status is a stern taskmaster. Wherever we are on the greased pole of life, we wish we were a little higher, our bright shiny life a littler shinier.  Whenever I get to know a rich guy, even a little, one of the first things I discover is that he's pricked with shame because there are even richer guys.  There'a always a bigger plane, and if you have the biggest plane, well, there are always doubts stowed aboard it. 
     Look at Donald Trump: president of the United States, famous, powerful, rich, though not as wealthy as he pretends to be. Air Force One—a mighty nice ride. Yet his life is a cleary desperate hunger for status, a junkie scramble toward the sense of adequacy that obviously eludes him, and is replaced by an inflamed egotism frantically trying to obscure the hollow within. He's truly pathetic.
     The virus that corrupts his blood infects us all, to a greater or lesser extent. Look at the car above, which I pass on my way walking Kitty through our leafy suburban paradise of Northbrook. Do you see what caused me to stop, smile, and take its picture? And no, not the license plate, I obscured that, so as to protect the privacy of the owner. Here, I'll give you a closer look.
     See it now?
     The car is a Hyundi which someone has tricked out with a Jaguar logo. My impulse was to march up to the door, ring the doorbell and quiz the owner. But it was early and, besides, what would I say? "What's wrong with you?" Nobody responds well to that question.
     First off, Jaguars are not even status cars, not anymore. Too problematic. Having an actual Jaguar is like owning a Hummer—you wonder about the judgment of the owner as it is. It's like wearing a Trump brand necktie. Really? You're trying to impress us with that? Couldn't you just wet yourself?
     If that's the real McCoy, what is a cobbled-together approximation of a shoddy grab at status? What do you call that? Being human, I suppose. There was a time when I was as susceptible to status as the next guy.
    But a few decades of lumpen suburban living squeezed that out of me. Consider it a benefit of age. I'm happy to drive my 2005 Honda Odyssey with 180,000 miles on it. When my older son scraped off the driver's side mirror, I reattached it with wire and duct tape. Repairing my car with duct tape, I realized that I had also put on a piece of aluminum siding that had fallen off the back of the house with duct tape. Which made me smile: both the house and the car sporting duct tape for the world to see. That's some serious lack of concern toward the opinion of the world which—spoiler alert—doesn't care what kind of car you drive. Or whether there's duct tape on it. 
    There's a nice coda to the driver's mirror story. My wife nudged me to get a replacement mirror. Not because of the opinion of the world but because you couldn't adjust the reattached mirror. The controls didn't work. The Honda place said a new factory-authorized mirror would cost $600. The car is barely worth $600. So I bought a brand new generic replacement on Amazon for $60. The guy at the shop said it would be $75 to $125 to install my new mirror. Girding my loins, I took a screwdriver, popped off the cover inside, removed the four bolts, unattached the electrical connection, put on the new mirror, reattached the connection, and the car was good to go. Took 10 minutes and cost 10 cents, for the bolt that I dropped on the driveway and lost and had to replace at the hardware store. 
    And was I proud? You better believe it. Clever, handy me. Proud without anyone even knowing. Which is the secret lost to all who grab at status. Pride comes from what you do. Not what you own.

16 comments:

  1. Maybe the Jaguar logo is meant as a joke. I find it funny. Rather witty too. You would have to know the owners intent. I interpret is as a joke.

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    1. A joke? Maybe...but more like stupidity on the part of the vehicle owner. Jaguars, while visually stunning, style-wise...were...and probably still are...notorious for design flaws, expensive repairs, and mechanical glitches. As for the make being a status symbol, that boat hasn't sailed since "Dead Man's Curve" (as sung by Jan and Dean in '63) was a hit on Top Forty AM radio.

      The problems of the British make are not new...it was even a major storyline on the "Mad Men" TV series...which was set in the Sixties. Jaguars have had problems for decades. Devotees of the show quickly learned this sad fact almost as well as the car's owners did.

      When I stated the above at a "Mad Men" message board, a snarky female Jag owner huffily replied: "I suppose you have to own one to know one." To which I responded: "Not so much--you just have to be an avid reader of car magazines at a very early age (which I was)...and to have been into cars since sixth grade." One does not necessarily need to visit Hell to have an idea of what goes on there.

      I thought Jags were way cool even before I was old enough to drive. Then I read about how badly they were made and quickly gave up the idea of ever wanting to own one. The shmendrick who put that logo on his vehicle doen't know from borscht about cars...or about symbols of conspicuous consumption, either.

      Charlie

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    2. Ford owned Jaguar from 1990 to 2008. They were a little better then, but Ford was smart to sell.

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    3. Yes they did, and Ford also owned Land Rover around that time. A close friend of mine edited the company magazine (AKA as a house organ) for Ford Motor Credit employees. I wrote some stories for her about the history of that world-famous make.

      Land Rovers were the vehicle of choice for African adventurers for many years. Images of them frequently appeared in National Geographic Magazine.

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  2. Ah, those minor mechanical triumphs -- they're the best.

    john

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  3. C'mon Neil. Do you think it could be a subtle joke? I know somebody that drives a really nice Honda with a Mercedes emblem on the front. Way back in High School I had a friend who put a 457 Crossed Flag emblem from a Corvette onto his '57 Chevy Bel Air. Sometimes it might be a wry sense of humour, not a Trump supporter.

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  4. Altering a vehicles make and/or model, confers a negative status. It's the cynic in me, knowing it's a trash method of trying to stay ahead of the repo man. Also depending on local laws, parking tickets can be challenged successfully if a vehicle's make or model is misidentified.

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  5. Thanks Neil. That was a great story about your Honda's side-view mirror replacement. I'm about your age and have, with the help of YouTube and 3rd party parts suppliers, been able to repair my dishwasher, fridge, two laptops and an iPad (well it turned out the iPad needed a part that cost more than its value, but I still took it apart and replaced its battery before I found that out). I didn't seek out these jobs of course, but it's nice to know that things aren't as complicated as we might make them out to be and that there is a world of people and companies out there to hold you hand while you figure it out.

    YouTube is also great for cooking demos. Years ago I prepared an Indian meal for our book group by watching videos of a woman in a small Indian apartment doing the same.

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  6. I've given up most do it yourself endeavors, leaving them to professionals. You tend to do that with age.

    On the pathetic Donald Trump, his ascendancy to the Presidency is unlikely to end in satisfaction. Writing on the virtues of generalship, Julius Caesar said "It's not the bigger tent but the privilege of command." He's finding out his commands are not followed. Or they are followed and revealed to be criminal.

    On that, perhaps he is being unfairly criticized for his craven abandonment of our allies in the fight against Isis. Surely the Turks will act humanely in their ethnic cleansing of Kurd from northern Syria. Ask any Armenian.

    Tom

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    1. Lest your comments be interpreted as Anti-Turk, I understand that there are many Turks who agree that the massacre of Armenians in 1915 and thereafter was genocide, although the official line differs.

      john

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  7. Maybe it's really a Jaguar and the guy put a Hyundai sticker on it.

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  8. Al and Cornell might have nailed it. My guess is the owner always wanted a Jaguar. Then life happened. And this IS his Jaguar. He has realized it and think it is funny. Obviously a droll humor. It cracks me up, anyway.

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  9. I would also take it as a joke. Years ago, I saw a Yugo (which Consumer Reports said barely qualified as an automobile) that the owner had painted flames on the hood. I mean professionally painted flames (maybe a decal) in bright red and yellow covering almost the entire the hood. I laughed all the way home.

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  10. I'm going with joke as well. Reminds me of Tommy Chong's car in Up in Smoke. It was a VW with a Rolls hood and grill.

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    1. Those were available commercially when the original VW Beetles were still commonplace. I quite a few of them--in Chicago, Cleveland, and elsewhere.

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