Last Sunday morning I got into my car and encountered a bit of a mess. Our cheap and largely useless sunglasses were scattered on the floor; the car manual and registration were tossed on the seat, along with a pile of CDs. Soooooo many CDs.
So I stewed about it for a bit. Why had Steve left the car such a mess? And why does he insist on using CDs instead of Spotify, to which we subscribe, and which streams just fine from any cellphone through our car speakers? This question of the continued utility of CDs is a long-running battle between me and Steve. For the record: I am thoroughly on the side of modernity and progress.
After a few moments of marital self-righteousness, I remembered that I, in fact, had been the last person to drive the car, just the previous evening, while Steve was clear on the other side of the country. And since I had no reason to check either the manual or the registration, and since I no longer believe in CDs and handle them as little as possible, someone else must have broken into the car and rifled through the glove box and other assorted compartments to see if they could take anything of value off our hands.
What they took: about $1.75 in quarters that Steve had on the dashboard to feed meters. For the record: being on the side of modernity and progress, I pay for parking with my phone, and I use cash of any sort as little as possible. So leaving quarters on the dashboard was not my choice. Anyway, I was raised as a New Yorker in the 70’s. Long before I carried a purse of my own I was taught that you keep it zipped and held firmly under your arm. You always lock your house, whether or not you are in it. And you never, ever leave anything of value visible in your car, especially not cash, because it is an invitation to break in.
Last week’s car break-in did feel like a bit of a breach. I have grown accustomed to the idea that my car is my own domain, that I get to decide who gets into it, and that the stuff in the car is mine. But those quarters are quite demonstrably no longer mine.
And alas, the CD’s still are.
To be fair, CD’s do still have some uses! They are readily employed as an ineffectual technique for frightening bluejays away from my blueberries.
Then again, why do I think of the blueberries as mine? Just because I planted the bushes, and because the Registry of Deeds believes I have title to the land on which they sit? The jays could care less about the Registry; they help themselves. Chipmunks help themselves to the strawberries; the raccoons eat the grapes; bunnies eat the leaves right off of the bean plants, down to the bare nubbins. Squirrels, damn their tiny, vile souls, eat the bottoms of the most beautiful tomatoes just as they start to ripen.
The back porch is not mine. Most summer days I walk out the door to find evidence of a squirrel bacchanalia:
And a few weeks back my neighbor sent me a photo of another invader:
I think of the interior of the house as mine; but in truth, over the years, the walls have been breached by squirrels, chipmunks, mice, bats, and a guy who helped himself to a pocketbook I left briefly on the kitchen counter.
I think of my body as mine; but that boundary is breeched all the time, by viruses, bacteria and the occasional surgeon. Plus I can think of a couple of fetuses who took up residence and declared their hegemony for nine-month stints.
The thoughts in my head are mine. But our ideas are so profoundly influenced by the culture around us that the idea of originality is, perhaps, absurd.
The moral of the car invasion? Obviously: ownership is a myth; control an illusion.
And this: always lock your doors! Otherwise, people will disappoint you by breaking in and failing to take your CDs.