One hears it said that Americans, or modern people in general, are far too attached to things and possessions. I am with the people who observe that most people are actually inattentive to things: accumulating them is not the same as cherishing them.
I’m a flake, I admit it. I named all my handbags back when I still carried such things. They all seemed to have distinctive personalities, and I appreciated their service. The same goes for at least some instruments of music (a guitar is pretty person-like) and any complex piece of machinery that you interact with. My first computer, who had a habit of going haywire right from the beginning, was Lucrezia Borgia; the second (a hand-me-down from my Republican Albino Ex) came to me with the name Ronald Reagan (“insufficient memory at this time,” I said). The third was a cheerful Dell whom I named Brother Juniper. The Cute Engineer finally built me a custom job and I call him Sebastian.
Naming your car is a bit more mainstream, though it seems to occur more in novels than in real life (Peter S. Beagle, in The Folk of the Air, dubbed his hero’s bulky van Madame Schumann-Heink, after a chunky opera singer who was once heard to protest “Mein Gott, I haff no sidevays!”).
I had two intransigent American hatchbacks early in my driving career, Valeria Desesperanza and Esclarmonde de Foix. When I latched onto a well made, genuinely new car it took a while for me to figure out what her name was, but one day “Melissa” popped out of my mouth. I never became aware of any secondary name. She was and is Melissa; loyal, gracious, stout-hearted, old now — nearly twenty-three — and, I sometimes detect, hanging in there more through nobility of spirit than anything else. I stroke her dashboard when I am starting her up, especially on cold mornings, and lately I have taken to explaining that I will get someone to help her out soon.
I still felt that I had to talk to her a little when I brought home the new car. I have a twentyish friend who can afford a car or insurance, but probably not both, and I can kind of imagine the old girl enjoying one last fling with a young fella. I think she is OK with the idea. He’s coming by to look at her tomorrow.
Meanwhile, after several suggestions and a couple of tentative ideas of my own, the new one informed me this morning on her first mission that she wanted a rather grand pan-European name incorporating one submission from Azahar, the name of a Barber opera whose waltz motif has always haunted me, the name of the woman who many say was the model for Socrates’ Diotima (“the stranger woman”) and… well, the dealer says her color is “Celestial Blue.”
I think they look like family.