Why are cars special?

A motorist in Brazil, fed up with Critical Mass bikers, mowed down about 20 people with his car.

This is a video of that incident. Humans are severely injured in it. While there is no real gore to speak of, do not watch this video if you don’t want to see bikers hit by a car.

I honestly wonder what’s going to happen with this guy. It seems like too often I read about someone mowing someone down capped by “no charges were filed.” I’m watching this case to see if justice is done in any measure. Here’s what’s developed so far:

“Prosecutors Eugenio Amorim and Lucia Callegari say in a statement they have asked for the preventive detention of Ricardo Jose Neis on charges of attempted homicide.”

AJC

The suspect is not arrested, but police said he could face a charge of attempted homicide, the newspaper reported.

Channel 6 News Online

So he’s not under arrest right at this moment. That already seems crazy to me, although it’s nice that prosecutors are taking action, so there will probably be a trial. But it boggles my mind that the police didn’t arrest him on the spot. He was brought in for questioning when they found his car abandoned, instead of simply being arrested, and then after questioning he was released.

That seems strange to me, since if someone had gone on a rampage through a crowd of cyclists (or, frankly, parked cars) with a baseball bat, the cops would have shown up with an arrest warrant.

This just the latest example among the myriad support for my theory that cars enjoy a special protected status in the minds of the populace (perhaps globally, certainly all over the US and clearly Brazil, so probably lots of South America). Even if this guy does jail time, we’ve already seen plenty of evidence of special treatment.

It’s as if the entire population is subconsciously repressing the knowledge of how the world as we know it would grind to a halt if we actually made people be responsible about motor vehicle operation.

Methinks the cabinet doth protest too much

Duting my initial survey of the office I now work in, I came across this box:

No sandwiches, either.

I have honestly been having a really hard time putting into words precisely how this sign made me feel. It’s been bothering me. And after literally hours of musing on and off, and several failed attempts at writing it up, I realized it was simple — I felt deeply and abidingly suspicious that there were in fact some fuses in that cabinet. And I felt compelled to tell it that okay, okay, whatever, I believed it.

I mean, why would a cabinet that didn’t have fuses in it need a sign saying so?

In fact, come to think of it, why do we put signs on things at all?

We label things when two conditions are satisfied:

  1. There is a cost associated with people not knowing the information
  2. The information isn’t plain to see

For example, take “CAUTION: HIGH VOLTAGE”, and other warnings. The cost of not knowing about the high voltage is a potentially lethal shock. And electricity is invisible. Sure, let’s let people know about that.

With something like “Recycling: Plastics and Glass Only”, the cost of not knowing is recyclable materials might be put in landfill or inappropriate materials might contaminate the recyclables. And it’s not possible to know where some bucket will be carted off to without some indication. So that makes sense.

But this NO FUSES business? Granted, unless you have x-ray vision, you wouldn’t be able to tell without opening the cabinet that there were no fuses in it. But what’s the cost of someone not knowing that in advance? In order for it to make any sense, there has to be some consequence to being wrong about the presence or absence of fuses in that cabinet. So it’s possible that there used to be people who were desperately looking for fuses all the time, and they couldn’t afford the precious seconds looking for them in the wrong place. But then why don’t I see that sign on everything that doesn’t have fuses in it?

Or maybe there are many more people than I would think who under no circumstances want to see fuses. Like maybe fuses killed their parents. And that sign is just to let them know that it’s totally safe to open that cabinet without their having to confront the painful past.

Of course those two scenarios are absurd. Consequently, failing to come up with a way to reconcile that sign’s message with the two requisites for rational signage, I cannot take it at face value. The most obvious conclusion is that the sign is trying to deceive me. Because fuses were in high demand in that office, but the fuses in that cabinet were already being used for something important. So in order to keep people who would go to any length, no matter how nefarious, from stealing fuses that were already in use, someone put up a sign that claimed that cabinet had none. Crazy? Definitely. But, not as far fetched as what I’d need to believe to think that there really weren’t any fuses in there.

Maybe the sign is trying to be sarcastic. What do you think? What could possibly explain that sign? Oh, and no, I haven’t yet checked inside the cabinet.

UPDATE: after much urging from the peanut gallery, I went ahead and investigated the oh-so-innocent sounding box. What I found was surprising.

The Inner Face

Think about the notions of beautiful and ugly. In particular, the way that the people you love become beautiful in your eyes. It reveals something about the different things we pay attention to depending on whether we’re regarding something new or something familiar. For most examples I discuss in this post, I will refer to people, but later maybe I can explore how this might apply to things as well.

A related aside: many years ago I had a brief conversation with a woman I had just met that evening. I honestly no longer remember where and when, or even the rough context of our meeting. At a friend’s party is about as far as I’d be willing to venture. In any case, the conversation was about wrinkles on your skin, in particular on your face. She was fretting about them. Now, I have always been dismayed by what I perceive to be a general and pervasive anxiety about the effects of aging that affects women, in particular, acutely.

People should be comfortable with the lines time draws on their faces, because those lines aren’t random cruelties of aging. They are directly caused by the expressions we put on over the course of our lives, In that sense, they are our personalities made manifest.

But this post isn’t about the whys and wherefores of the aging complex and gender. I just remember that I offered her a viewpoint that I hope I can maintain as time begins to show on my skin: that people should be proud of the lines in their skin, because they are a history of their emotional life. As my friend L. once said, “we’re made of the same stuff as everything else.” End aside.

When you look at someone unfamiliar, by definition, you can only see what’s on the surface. What strikes people as beautiful or ugly in an initial impression are the aesthetic markers — symmetry, ratio, cultural norms, etc. Sometimes familiarity with people can grow very quickly, but it’s a process. This surface-only perception is even more primary when a person’s expression is neutral — at that time, all you can see is the prettiness or ugliness of their “outer face”.

So, what’s the “inner face”? You can’t see it all the time, at least at first. When it’s visible, it sits on the landscape of the outer face. It is the thing that you find either beautiful or ugly in people that you know. It’s the collection of expressions that, because you are familiar with the person, you associate with traits of theirs, positive or a negative. A furrowing of the brow when they are concentrating that you associate with their pleasantly contemplative nature. A tilt to their lips that you associate with an unfortunate tendency they have to think of themselves as superior.

The inner face is a dynamic manifestation of who a person is. After a while, you may stop seeing the outer face of some people completely. Even when you regard the most neutral image of that person, you are still seeing that face’s potential.

To bring the aside back around, aging kinda puts your inner face on the outside, as time etches into your skin the evidence of all your expressions.