Unlikely attachments

The world is full of serious issues, and people who take themselves too seriously. My goal is to avoid both today. It’s time to discuss unlikely attachments.

My former boss once asked a captive audience, “What do lawyers and mice have in common?” After a theatrical pause and a questioning glance around the room, he followed with the answer, “They are both plentiful, and you don’t get too attached to them.”

The room filled with laughter (mine included) – this was the boss after all. The joke was a mild version of many similar ones circulating at the time. As a lawyer (and former mice owner), I failed to fully appreciate any of them.

I can vouch for the fact that you can indeed get attached to mice. I managed to talk my parents into getting me two pet mice in my childhood. They were supposed to be of the same gender, yet clearly that wasn’t the case, unless one of them was pregnant upon arrival. Two mice turned into several in a flash.

After my yearly visit to my grandparents’ summer haven in the Finnish archipelago, I returned to a home devoid of mice. I was devastated. My father muttered something about a mysterious disease. It was obvious that my parents hadn’t become as attached to the plentiful mice as I had.

Fortunately my parents’ attachment to me was always abundantly clear, my chosen profession withstanding. Which is probably why I never took the lawyers-and-mice jokes too seriously

I was, however, reminded of the story when I found that I had – once again, if my boss was to be believed – become attached to something unlikely.

I belatedly realised that cars matter. I am not talking about a green “awakening”, although I am all for cleaner cars, and the avoidance of any unnecessary use of cars in general.

I am talking about my long time car partner, fondly referred to by our family as The Cow. A name that was inadvertently coined by the sunny car salesman who sold her to us. When we later complained that the car’s acceleration left something to be desired, he just laughed, and admitted that it did indeed resemble that of a cow departing a swamp.

The Cow served us faithfully. She may not have excelled at acceleration, but she was steady and reliable when it counted. She was big enough to carry pretty much everything we threw at her. She managed wintry roads in Finland just as well as sunny motorways in Germany, France, and Italy; at a steady speed – no frills, no surprises.

She saw countless moments of happiness, witnessed too many meaningless quarrels, and endured an unreasonable amount of Queen (among others), featuring nastyoldlady.

Parting with her was hard, but at the time we reasoned that it had to happen some day.

None of my car relationships have lasted as long as The Cow. When I replaced her with a new model, sporting all the bells and whistles of today’s cars, unexpected feelings of remorse hit me.

I found myself wondering whether The Cow would find a good home. I followed her to the car sales site she ended up on. She was immediately picked up by someone. I hope whoever it was understands what a find she is.

At the same time I was thrilled with the sleek lines and many different gadgets of my new car. I was proud to be seen with it. Even my neighbours commented on how nice it looked. Some of the gadgets proved really helpful, others let me down in unprecedented ways. The navigation system kept steering me wrong time and time again.

We tentatively called the new car the Calf (she hasn’t earned the big T yet).

I was confused by her many features; I didn’t fully understand and trust all of them, maybe I never will. I also worried about getting even the tiniest scratch on her. My driving suffered with all the gadgets to be followed and the care to be taken.

I never worried too much about The Cow. I knew her features as well as my own. Her market value was so low that one more dent or scratch wouldn’t really matter.

I couldn’t help but wonder why I had paid so much for a car that only added to my worries, when The Cow was still up for anything I asked of her.

My reasons were varied. There was some peer pressure, but that didn’t really matter. There were some worries that The Cow would have to be exchanged at some time, she couldn’t last forever. But that wasn’t really a key concern either. It’s still unsure which one of us will outlive the other.

By the end of the day it was more about opportunity, and the thrill of the search. We happened to have the money. If it wasn’t used now for a new car, it would soon be blown on travel and other fun things. The thought of a new car was exciting. The chase after the perfect model was fun.

When we finally drove out of the car shop with the new car, leaving The Cow behind, it felt as if I had traded a life long partner for a new one for all the wrong reasons.

But the decision was made; there was no going back. It’s useless to wonder what could have been. I have invested too much in the Calf. I am sure we’ll be happy together.

Although she does keep throwing surprises at me. Yesterday she decided that I preferred my seat in a fully reclining position. I have no idea where that came from. She keeps warning me of this and that, and she pretty much yells at me if my seat belt isn’t on. She still steers me in the wrong direction at times.

Her fuel of choice is different too. Instead of gasoline, she prefers diesel. Which made me worry so much about always using diesel that I managed to fill our outboard motor with diesel too. Needless to say the motor runs on gasoline.

So instead of enjoying the Finnish archipelago, we enjoyed a few hours at the marina, waiting for someone to empty all that diesel away, clean the motor, and charge an extortionate price for doing it all.

I keep telling myself that the Calf’s parking camera and other special features are exactly what I needed. But are they truly worth all this hassle, and all that money?

This isn’t buyer’s remorse, this is something much worse. I feel for all the people out there who have exchanged old models (be they cars or humans) for new ones. However it all ends, well or badly, the stress of the change can be close to unbearable.

My feature image tells the story of my new life in a nutshell. The photo is from our recent trip to Eastern Finland. I was watching a young couple pack their car from our hotel window. I found myself worrying again. Their car was parked beside the Calf. Doors were opened with careless abandon. Would they accidentally hit the Calf? Would there be scratches and dents? So I took a picture, or rather several. Bordering on crazy – that’s me today.

Will things ever go back to normal? Whatever that is for lawyers and mice.