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.