Thursday, 7 December 2017

Been Driving All Night, My Hands Wet on the Wheel

Was out walking my dog early this morning, and a couple of neighbours were pulling out of tjeor driveway, I presume on the way to work (it was 6.45 AM). It was early, the dog was milling around, and I was just 15 minutes removed from dreaming of electric sheep, so my mind was a bit blank.

Noticed that the man (husband? boyfriend) was at the wheel as the woman looked at her eye makeup in the mirror. Not really remarkable, but got me to thinking.

In the modern era of professed equality, virtually whenever I see a couple on the road, the guy is behind the wheel. Car commercials - yes, even Subaru - will inevitably and without fail that if a man and woman are in a car, and it is moving, and not being towed, the man is driving.

Cartoons as well.

When I was a kid, we lived close to Disneyland in suburban Los Angeles, California, and went often. One of the attractions - now horribly dated - is the Autopia in "Tomorrowland." Plastic cars that look suspiciously like 1955 Triumph TR-3s powered by lawnmower engines that, at 7 are thrilling but at 47 are noisy and noxious. On the wall in various mid-century art are a family - all smiling (it's the Happiest Place on Earth, after all) - with dad at the wheel, executive-style hair perfectly coiffed with ample amounts of Bryl Creme.

Even Mickey is not saved the chore.

I am curious - what is it about driving that makes it a "guy thing?" 

In our family, we share tasks, sometimes along traditional roles (e.g., taking out the trash always seems down to me), and other times not (managing the remote, installing electronics is assuredly for my wife). But it is almost always I who drives. Unless I've had a bit too much to drink and we drove rather than use Uber or Muni, or we've gone out in the MG, which is a 70-year-old manual transmission (the wife cannot drive a modern stick shift, so a non-synched first gear is absolutely out of the question).

It's not like the old days where a coach and four required a certain amount of strength, or even the 1930s or so where cars were dirty.

Feminism has just not been able to make many inroads on, well, the road.

It's a bit ironic, in that one advancement is the omnipresence of GPS (Garmin, WAZE on the iPhone), which have as a default a female voice. (Aside: I read that a lot of research actually went into this decision, and it was determined in psychometric and market research that:

  1. A woman's voice is less intimidating than a man's when ordering you to "turn left in 100 metres"

  2. Guys stereotypically have horrible senses of direction, and never bother to ask anyways

Anyhow, the machines that act as navigator are "women."

There is an old joke (I think it's funny, but your mileage may vary) that when a same-sex couple dances, who leads? By extension, when a same-sex couple take a road trip, who drives? 

In the case of two guys, perhaps there is a fight. If it's two women, maybe both sit in passenger seats and the car stays in the garage? I don't know.

We used to live in Paris, and during our time there, the French were investigating the potential for state-controlled robot cars. Subsequently, Google and Uber (and others) are now on the verge of self-driving cars. Robots are neither masculine or feminine, so this changes the calculus just a bit.

Technology strikes another blow in the battle of the sexes.