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Story by Lois Grace

As a Car Person who has been blissfully child-free for years, I often wonder: Why ARE cars so much more fun than kids?? I marvel at why people have so many children when they could spend a few thousand dollars every couple years and have some really cool CARS. Recently, after looking at before and after photos of Vernon (my adored and restored 1959 Single Cab), my boss asked me how much I had invested in my "first-born", and when I told him, he exclaimed, "GEESH!! For that you could have sent a kid to college!" Keep in mind that this is a man who is a connoisseur of fine machinery himself, with only one child to his credit. Bearing in mind also that sending vast numbers of offspring to sleep through expensive college educations is not my idea of fun for our later years, I will continue:

We can begin at the beginning. Every new car is a wanted vehicle. No one but me buys cars by accident. At least, no one I know. There are no stray cars, there are no unwanted cars, and while there certainly are abused cars, they don't suffer in the same ways as unwanted, unloved children. Once you buy a car, you don't worry about other cars having a bad influence on it. I have never once worried about any of my cars having a drinking (unless you count that horrible gasoline-sucking habit my Saab had) or drug problem. Cars don't eat unless you play with them. And, if you play with them, you can put them away after you are done and they don't whine and cry for more. Children have a tendency to require food and attention, if you play with them or not. And, no matter how LONG you play with a kid, they always want more. Kids have a nasty way of tossing their meals about carelessly too - for instance, throw a baby up in the air after he's finished that bottle and you?ll see what I am talking about.' Older kids do this too - take them to McDonald's for a simple burger and fries and you'll get more fries on the floor (and ketchup on the kid) that you will in the KID. I can take my vehicles to any gas station to fill up and nearly always, nearly ALL of the gasoline ends up in the car and stays there. If it does dribble, it's usually because I've been sloppy or the car is trying to tell me something. Can't blame any of this on the poor car!

Cars are GRATEFUL too. Fill a car and that gas tank gauge needle goes BLAM!!! right over to FULL and stays there for a while. Where else can you get appreciation like THAT?? None of my cars gets his fill of super unleaded and then whines for ice cream. Cars sit patiently while you fill them, they don't go running around the gas station, making nuisances of themselves while you demand that they calm down, sit still and allow you to fill them. No, cars enjoy being fed. They burp quietly and politely to allow more gas into the tank and then wait patiently for you to take them away to wherever it is you are going. Cars have vast amounts of patience. Just think of what they endure every single day: they sit in the garage, waiting for you to get out there in the morning. Then, they sit in a parking lot all day while you are at work, waiting for you to come out at night and take them home. Then, they sit in the garage all night, wait for morning again. This is not even counting the waiting they do at stop lights on a daily basis. What 2-year-old do YOU know that could do that? What teenager do you know would wait hours for you to get off work and not complain?

Cars don't cry, either. My cars know when I've had a bad day, and they don't add to that bad day by crying or making a fuss. I can honestly say that if I've just endured a truly terrible day, my car will start without complaining, it will run flawlessly all the way home and it will quietly and thoughtfully tuck itself into the corner of the garage where it lives, to await my better mood. On the few occasions when my cars have chosen to act up, it was usually (again) not their fault. And, when it does happen, they seem to pick the most convenient and opportune time to have their breakdown. Try THAT with a cranky toddler in a dirty diaper.

There are lots of ways that cars and kids are similar though - take, for instance, shoes. Your kids blow through shoes at an alarming rate. Seems that the moment you buy that adorable pair of Baby Nikes for your child, his feet grow 3 sizes and they no longer fit. Buy your car a set of tires and they always stay the same size! Once a kid gets old enough that his growth slows down a bit and shoes fit for longer than a moment, they wear through them. Soles get thin, laces break, and the shoe is generally ready for the garbage. Cars can be the same way with their shoes though. Cars will never outgrow tires (unless your car was a geek when you bought it and you decided to give it a new personality with a different size, fancier wheel or something), but cars very definitely will wear through tires. Some cars do this at the same alarming rate as children outgrowing shoes. Now, if you compare the cost of all those Baby Nikes for your kid to a set of really good radials for your car, you might find that you are spending just about the same for either one. Maybe they should rate kids? shoes with the same mileage specs they do tires: cheap shoes might get your toddler, say, 20,000 miles worth of running, jumping, and playing, while more expensive shoes could net 60,000 miles or more. Either way, shoes or tires; surfacing your baby's feet can cost you plenty.

Kids and cars do have a few things in common. They both need regular checkups and care. Think of your mechanic as as sort of "auto pediatrician" and you have the idea. Any good mechanic will care enough about your car to do whatever it takes to keep it in good working order. Your pediatrician can help you with shots, potty training and behavioral problems; your mechanic will do basically the same thing, fixing oil leaks and finding out why your car hates cold mornings so much. Unlike your children, who may or may not appreciate such preventive steps as inoculations, teeth-cleanings, and eye exams, your cars will ALWAYS be grateful for the small things like oil changes and valve adjustments. Kids make noise when they find out they must go in for checkups, cars make noise if they DON'T go in for checkups.

There is one BIG way cars and kids are very different. Even if your car loves you completely, it will never greet you at the end of a long hard day with a hug. You will never be able to watch your car cut its first tooth, take its first steps or say its first words. While your car might make you proud, it's usually not as a result of some hard-won accomplishment. Your car will never make you applaud with joy at a piano recital, will never move you to tears at a high school or college graduation (although I have shed many happy tears of pride at trophies and awards won by my boys), and never make you worry about it late at night (at least not for the same reasons). Cars cannot create special works of art that will get taped to the refrigerator - Car Art comes in the form of dirty puddles under the car, and most of us do not appreciate these as much as we do Kid Art. I suppose if you got really inspired you could always manipulate your drip pan to enhance your car's artistic attempts, but cars don?t truly LIKE art. They are more - dare I say it?? - primitive than that and merely drip because they have to.? While you can add to your automotive collection by buying more cars, that one special vehicle will not ever be able to present you with grandchildren.

I don't think there is a definitive answer to the question Are cars better than kids??? Because, see, everything has its place in life. Kids and cars are no exception. Kids and cars can BOTH be fun. I'm happiest with my cars being my kids. Now, if Nike starts making TIRES, I'm in BIG trouble.


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