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Maintaining the Driving Line

19 April 2001
Dan has a point to make. Or three.

Put the key into the ignition and turn. Rest your forehead on the steering wheel. Part of being a successful driver is knowing your vehicle. Study the finer qualities of the dashboard. Different brands, or, as they are known in the "auto trade", marques, are primarily differentiated by chassis structure, engine quality, and detailing. The way the dash is put together is one part of detailing. For example, the gauge on this model represents the level of oil in the system by a series of illuminated blocks of various colours, rather than the more traditional arrangement.

The more traditional arrangement also employs coloured blocks, or more generally a curved parallelogram, with a thick green end tapering through an arc of around 15%, as if describing a part of a far larger circle. The interrupted circle terminates not quite in a point, by which time the green has elided into a dull, irritated red. This shape may be described in an uninterrupted curve, or may be subdivided into a series of blocks. This makes no difference.

Regardless, this arc is the passive participant in the process of information, providing only a scale or metric. If you actually want to know how much oil there is in your engine, you need the second part - a needle at one end penetrating slightly but lying above the block, embedded in the other in a gear which moves it to the point where the extended arm touches, gently, the correct point along this arc. The gear, for the sake of appearances, is generally concealed beneath a plastic cylinder, itself lodged in the Perspex covering the dashboard entier. On the other side of this cylinder, generally but not necessarily, is an identical arc, indicating petrol (usually indicated by a stylised image of a can or pump) or engine temperature (usually indicated by a stylised image of a thermometer). The stylised image denoting oil has never successfully been identified. It exists as signifier only through not being recognisable as anything else.

The two descriptive arcs describe their arcs almost but not to the point of touching at head and foot.

There was a brief vogue for "talking cars", automobiles that would take the information on the dash and represent, or re-present, that data through a series of recorded messages in a neutral, faintly feminine computerised voice. At the time, you wondered whether drivers unable to interpret the dash signals on their own should strictly be known as drivers, or indeed allowed anywhere near the driver's side of a car.

An affectation at best, these cars rapidly became infuriating, due to a basic design flaw. As the engine was switched off, the comically large, clumsy and stupid late-eighties computer would register the falling of the oil and petrol gauges, caused by the termination of electrical supply from the battery to the gears which held them up.

So, every time the car stopped, the same neutral monition would bring to your attention low levels of oil and petrol which simply did not exist. This was by no means the only reason that, after the aforementioned period of gimmick-fuelled interest, the cars, which were boxy and handled badly, in no small part a result of the expense of time and money on the computer-activated voice system, failed to sell in the expected droves.

Computer-activated voice system. An inversion. Ridiculous.

For you, however, such a system might be quite useful, as your vision of the lower end of the two sets of illuminated blocks, which, having no central plastic cylinder to curl around, instead taper off along a true vertical, leaving a goblet shape in which are held the stylised images denoting their function, has been and is obscured by a picture of a young woman.

The young woman has been photographed standing just outside the terraced houses currently reflected in your left-hand wing mirror, and is in fact the very same young woman who is currently using the perspective gained from the bathroom mirror in a flat in the terraced house ten feet or so behind your rear bumper on the left-hand side. She is repairing salt damage to her exterior detailing, employing tapering blocks of colour over the eyes and along the cheekbones. The photograph is slightly newer than the rest of the car's interior detail, with the exception of the air-freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror, which is green and cut to resemble a stylised pine tree, although the smell it releases does not resemble even a stylised version of pine.

Move your head back to the driving position. Place one finger on the photograph and apply downward pressure. Allow it to fall beneath the clutch pedal, which you should then depress, and shift gear into first. Check right wing and rear-view mirrors. Pause. Shift into reverse, disengage the handbrake, release the pressure on the clutch. Rock it. Rock it. Squeeze the accelerator. Rock it. Rock it. Rocket backwards, drive and grind your rear bumper into the grille, the glass, the lights of the car behind. Move into first, clip your wing on a Japanese car as you move into second, third, fourth, hit the main road at fifty, sideswipe a family pet just for wouldnt you.

Its not as if you have to pass through here to get anywhere important.


Previously on upsideclown


Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
30 October 2003. Dan writes: My only goal
9 October 2003. Dan writes: The Knot
18 September 2003. Dan writes: The Engelbart Elephant
28 August 2003. Dan writes: The Amity Index
7 August 2003. Dan writes: This Sporting Life
17 July 2003. Dan writes: Touch
26 June 2003. Dan writes: Metadata
5 June 2003. Dan writes: Street Mate
15 May 2003. Dan writes: Usher's Well
24 April 2003. Dan writes: Medicamenta
3 April 2003. Dan writes: Weapons of Mass Construction
13 March 2003. Dan writes: David Sneddon, Bukake Secret Agent
20 February 2003. Dan writes: Mary Sue
30 January 2003. Dan writes: Bait and Switch
9 January 2003. Dan writes: What Never Happened
19 December 2002. Dan writes: Sermon on the Mount the Face
28 November 2002. Dan writes: Ballroom Blitz
7 November 2002. Dan writes: The Photographer
17 October 2002. Dan writes: Diaphragmatic
26 September 2002. Dan writes: A life in the day
5 September 2002. Dan writes: Different Class
15 August 2002. Dan writes: Story and sequel
25 July 2002. Dan writes: Fellatious
4 July 2002. Dan writes: Skin Mag
10 June 2002. Dan writes: The Ibizan book of the Dead
16 May 2002. Dan writes: The Sissons Situation
22 April 2002. Dan writes: UpsideClown and Out in Hollywood
28 March 2002. Dan writes: Nereus' Daughters
4 March 2002. Dan writes: Diomedes
7 February 2002. Dan writes: Text Only
14 January 2002. Dan writes: Civil Engineering
20 December 2001. Dan writes: Nativity
26 November 2001. Dan writes: The Wedding Band
1 November 2001. Dan writes: what dreans mecum?
8 October 2001. Dan writes: Stop me if you've heard this one before
13 September 2001. Dan writes: Mother of the Muses
20 August 2001. Dan writes: I say I say I say
26 July 2001. Dan writes: Bigger, Better, Brother
2 July 2001. Dan writes: Hecatomb
7 June 2001. Dan writes: Dispassionate Leave
14 May 2001. Dan writes: Small Town Boy
19 April 2001. Dan writes: Maintaining the Driving Line
26 March 2001. Dan writes: Cut and Paste
1 March 2001. Dan writes: Redemption
5 February 2001. Dan writes: Blyton the Face of the Earth
8 January 2001. Dan writes: Smoke Signals
18 December 2000. Dan writes: The Loa Depths
23 November 2000. Dan writes: The Limits of Melissa Joan Hart
30 October 2000. Dan writes: Shiftwork
5 October 2000. Dan writes: Dawson
11 September 2000. Dan writes: Testing Times
17 August 2000. Dan writes: Onanova
3 July 2000. Dan writes: Roboto il Diavolo

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