The spare near my fingers
It is the evening, a point in recent history. I decide to buy some eggs. After landing on that decision, I identify a burning problem, which is that I am not positioned in a very optimal position for buying eggs. This necessitates some action, and the action that I choose is to reposition myself to a better position, by doing a walk in the direction of a better position for buying eggs.
While walking, I notice that other people are busy repositioning themselves too. It’s certainly all the rage. But it’s not all about the fuzzy warmth of camaraderie, and where I differ from the other people is in my means of repositioning, because these other people are all cocooned in great shiny hollow whales of metal and glass, of which a disproportionate number are the cars which are called “4×4s”.
Stop! Of course, the “4×4” descriptor is a perplexing one, and I expect that the etymology involves a wealth of technical blah. (The square of 4 is 16.) “Four wheel drive” is another oft used term, but, frustratingly, it’s becoming common for the smaller examples of those silly rugged-looking cars to only in fact be propelled by just two of the four wheels, and just think what would happen if I dared to imply something false about the number of wheels of a car that are driven by an engine. It’s like there’s a conspiracy by the government, a conspiracy that achieves little more than the perpetuation of a viscous culture of fear, and renders innocent people much too scared to even try mentioning the car-type of a certain type of car. A Pyrrhic victory, if you ask me.
Like what I said, I notice on this occasion that an awful lot of people are driving cars that fit into this category – enough of an awful lot to make me notice it. You know, I’m not even sure that any of them are normal cars. Another person would attribute this to the actions of some Gods, but I’m sure it’s just a bit like how double-yolks are generally more common among the boxes of “large” eggs, right, and so an entire box of those freaks should not be mistaken for a giant miracle by any means.
The first car of my acquaintance is oddly still, and very definitely in line with the established trend of being a 4×4. What’s more, I wouldn’t even be shocked by the emergence of some proof of its being one of the prickly compact ones that are actually driven by only two wheels, so barely a four-wheel-drive at all. But the most interesting feature is attached to its tailgate, a spare wheel.
Nothing unusual about that, a spare wheel attached to the tailgate, right? No, that’s not right, something unusual is there, and I don’t mean my use of the North American “tailgate” word – what I mean is the attachment of a spare wheel to the tailgate, because that’s also pretty unusual.
When I was a boy, oh, it was rare to find a tailgate that wasn’t screwed to a spare wheel. Once I had grown ankles and elbows, things were starting to change, but the Land Rovers and all their peers could always be relied on to keep the noble tradition alive. Then, something happened, and I don’t understand exactly what.
I suppose it started with the trend of wrapping the wheels in pieces of fabric. It became, I am sure, all of a sudden vulgar to have the flesh of the metal and rubber on show, like inviting a man with a vest to eat the Eiffel Tower. This development made for much glee among a certain community, because it meant that at last they’d be able to store their biscuit tins and palace-shaped pudding basins on their tailgates without arousing a stir. Also, it meant that hungry capitalists could stick advertising in yet another dimension. Etched into my eyelids is a drawing of a yacht, which amazed me because I thought that each one must have been steady-handedly scratched on with one of the disappointing white pencil crayons that are only intended for lightening already-shaded hues. The local car retailer was evidently good at targeting the key youth demographics. (By the time that I have grown legs long enough to reach the pedals, it may be too late, but full marks for trying, Norfolk Motor Group.)
Soon, even the shape of the tyres had grown a stigma, and here we are today. Hello. It’s all about the admission that, hey, a puncture could happen any time, we’re all vulnerable. It’s a metaphor for the fragility of Turkish delight, and people can’t handle the truth.
These important turds spool through my head, and at the very same time, a whole motorcade of assorted modern 4×4s drives past, and sure enough they’re all far too shy to peacock their spare wheels about. It’s like how last year I stood noticing something rare about the wooden growths outside, and right at that moment my portable gramphone shuffled around Stevie Wonder to reassure me that “leaves are green. They only change to brown when autumn comes around.” Culture!
I arrive at the farm shop, the position of my fancy. Like one of the dystopian robotic machines found at many popular supermarkets (“unexpected item in the bagging area”, haw haw haw, etc), this shop dispenses with any need for human interactions. Unlike that, it achieves this by consisting of just a shed with an electric refrigerator, some produce, and a sort of piggy bank that actually misses a trick by not being in the shape of any of the animals – although, to be fair, it could easily be passed off as a representation of some bacon from the refrigerator, or some leeks that have been sat on. In being all faceless and yet also charmingly analogue, it’s a crazy explosion of opposing themes, right? (Hey, it’s even less human than a supermarket, because at least at the supermarket they have a damp-haired man staring at a flat screen of Dell chocolate box plastic, ready to lurch towards any distressed seekers of assistance.)
I select some eggs (large), and I drop the requisite coins into the knobbly plastic box – making as much noise as possible, full of fear that the chickens’ ears are cocked intently, and with little faith in their understandings of the extent to which distance will muffle the sound of coins clanking together. I was once bitten on a finger by a chicken, and am certain that my present-day unenjoyment of some varieties of mushroom can be traced to that incident what happened all those years ago, so it’s really important not to arouse their suspicions, because I couldn’t bear to lose broccoli too.