For eight years I drove a red Volkswagen Beetle. Something about the Beetle Bug draws out the happy in people—I received regular waves and smiles from those I shared the road with. The car also inspired others to kindness and courtesy, as I was often waved into line with little wait or need to turn the Beetle mean.
I now have a Volkswagen Eos, which is a hardtop convertible. I have yet to reap any of the friendly benefits of the Beetle—I am now among the regular folk who likely inspire road rage in others just like any driver—no more waves, no more smiles, no more Slug Bug matches.
Something I have gained with this car (when the top is down) is a sense of being connected to the world around me as I go about my business. No longer do steel and glass and fabric insulate me, severing me from other drivers and happenings. I see people as near; they are almost close enough to touch. I wonder where they are going, what their life looks like. I can hear their voices and snippets of their conversations (and the songs they sing).
Other drivers are like me. I am out meeting friends, completing my to do list, singing along to my music.
But inside our rolling cocoons, we become a faceless, nameless mass. We become the car that is driving too slowly or the truck that is driving too closely or the SUV that is forcing itself in line. The vehicle is seen as the problem to be conquered, removed; the person is merely an extension of that problem. We forget that we’re all in this together—living life, working, loving others. All that gets blocked from sight when a vehicle is before our eyes.
Without our cocoons, we are people who have concerns and stresses like everyone else. We hurry along because someone is waiting on us. We forget the route we meant to go and are forced to count on someone’s kindness to let us squeeze in. Sometimes we drive slowly because we are transporting a cake.
All this reality is lost inside our insulated cocoons where our imaginations begin to paint every other driver as the enemy instead of our fellow man.
Perhaps the world would be a more pleasant place if everyone had a convertible (or a Beetle). We could see the person within the cocoon and remember that the heap before us is more than an inanimate object.