Her car is her castle

ON reading advertisements for the larger cars, one is confronted by news of an incredible assortment of gadgets: radios, TVs, videos, cassette players, tape recorders, telephones, picnic hampers; a whole array of ``extras'' guaranteed to make the normal car owner utterly amazed. For how, we wonder, could any executive, however officious, however sybaritic, want all these luxuries in his car? It is absurd. They will be installing wash basins next. On reflection, however, and setting one's sights considerably lower, it is true that for many of us our cars are mobile extensions of our homes. There is, after all, no greater sense of relief to be had in life than when, laden with packages and having splashed through rain for what seems like miles, you actually find your car where you think you parked it, open the door, and get in. What an exquisite sensation, to be sitting at last, with a roof over your head and with so many home comforts to hand.

Slowly you take off your scarf and comb your hair. You have got half an hour to wait before Lucy comes out of school. Cut off from the madding crowd, yet able to watch it picking its weary way along the street, you turn on the radio and let soft music swirl round your thawing ears. On the back seat lies a juicy whodunit. In the front pocket there is a half-knitted baby's bootee and a packet of peppermints. In one side pocket there is a writing pad, in the other the car maintenance book (always startling reading for those not wholly conversant with the combustion engine). Quite frankly, you could happily stay there for hours, reading and humming and knitting and drowsing, all so peaceful and snug, so delightfully secluded.

It is all a question of degrees. We must not laugh at the interior fittings of tycoons' cars (here in England we once had a foolish millionairess of whom we were irresistibly fond, who stated she was never again going to upholster the seats of her cars in mink as it was too hot) since it is possible that captains of industry feel as at home finding an old computer in the dashboard pocket as we do finding old envelopes inscribed with heart-rending messages to meter maids.

A car then, to its owner, is not solely a means of getting from one place to another. For some it is a harbor to which they run for safety and cover, hoping to reach it before they drop the detergents and cereals on the sidewalk. To others it is a part of their business or a source of entertainment to distract them from current cares. It is rarely simply a vehicle, except possibly to that sheikh who has 47 Rolls-Royces in his stable. Though even he may think the red one is more homelike than the blue?

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