Updated: Jan 1, 2021
My family is really into cars. The makes, the models, the horsepower, the rims. We love going to car shows, Formula One, and we love watching car TV shows like Top Gear.
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I hear it started with my father’s side of the family. In fact, most of the older men in my family are aspiring mechanics. My eldest brother displayed the most captivating skill of car identification when he was barely potty-trained. My father used to point out models and makes of vehicles, and my brother developed the ability to identify cars by their headlights or taillights. And all of us displayed some measure of this ability, to varying degrees. Our skills sharpened when we created the game of Calling Cars.
Calling Cars was a road trip pastime. Because our family was so big, it was cheapest for us to fly into Florida, and from there, rent a bus and drive to wherever we wanted to go. To escape the tedium of the long days of travel, we called cars.
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The rules were simple.
Whoever called a car first, won the car. If you called at the same time as someone else, then you had to call it again to win the car. If you called a car by the make, and someone called it at the same time by the model, the person who called it by the model, won the car. At the end of the trip, we would tally our cars to see who collected the most.
The funniest thing about calling cars was that you could also trade cars. Trading cars had real value. Some of us would trade cars for food, escaping chores, first picks on theme park rides; and anything else we could think of. Can you imagine being asked to clean your sibling’s room in exchange for a coveted Dodge Viper? You would clean the room happily, and only receive the car in your imagination; to be able to say at the end of the trip, that you got a Viper.
Our parents encouraged us, too. They did not stop us from trading real value for imagined value. The only time they intervened was when we came to blows over who called a car first or resorted to bullying someone out of an especially desirable car. Despite how ridiculous this pastime may seem, a car fully of happily occupied children had real, and not imagined value for them.
I’ve been musing on these things, and I wonder: Have I truly recovered from trading imagined value for real? Sometimes I catch myself chasing down things that won’t last, while sacrificing things I actually need. It’s remarkable how hard it is to know the difference.
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