Cars are not people.

Recently Doug DeMuro posted another Letters to Doug article on Jalopnik entitled, What Do I Do About The Abandoned Porsche 911 In My Parking Garage? That article you can find here:

In response to this reader’s question, specifically one question in particular, “Is there anyway to make this poor misunderstood work of broken egg whites mine? Legally?”,I decided to write my own response to the contrary that this person should NOT pursue such avenues as to legally engage in the theft of someone else’s property. Because after all, taking something that doesn’t belong to you without someone else’s consent IS in fact theft. And as someone who is the current owner of a classic car in storage, I wrote my response from the factual point of view of someone who actually does fear theft of his own car by such means. The barrage of responses I received was plentiful. The majority of them absolutely appeared to be in my favor. Both from the few positive comments, as well as the overwhelming amount of stars I received. But some of you were less than enthusiastic, to say the least. As usual I get to see the typical barrage of how I didn’t deserve my car, the name calling, and even the threat to steal my car. Which who knows how much jest is involved from an anonymous source across the internet, of course, but just perfectly proved my point.


But I wanted to talk about this a bit more in depth. This is something serious that I don’t think many people have really dealt with before. The emotional investment we place upon inanimate objects, and how we tend to anthropomorphize them even further. Which in turn fuels our emotional responses even further. So lets talk about this, and how it plays a significant role in the car hobby. First, a little background:

People can have a strange relationship with inanimate objects. We tend to place a strong emotional value on lifeless things. It’s true. What is even more interesting about this is how through those emotions we feel, we can even give a bit of sentience to them sometimes. As if they were able to feel emotion. Which works both ways in order to “protect” a thing, or even to “harm” it as well. We’ve seen demonstrations of this in popular culture. In the game, Portal, players are forced to destroy their Weighted Companion Cube, and some players have even reported feeling remorse about the task as seen here:

In the movie Forrest Gump, the title character opens up his tale of his life story while talking about all of the shoes he’s owned, and how he thinks back to his first pair and how his mother told him that they could take him anywhere.

And in consumerism, we can measure customer satisfaction with a product by how much of an emotional attachment the customer develops with it. Apple for example not only trains their Family Room staff to know how to repair computers and portable devices, they send employees through crash courses in psychology to know how to deal with people who have developed strong emotional ties with their devices. Because people do. They think of all the places that they have been, and all of the experiences they’ve had with their devices. It tends to get very emotional for some people. They have a very hard time letting go, and they have to be guided through the change. Even when they have backed up a device, get it swapped out, and everything gets restored to the new iPhone or iPad like nothing ever happened. Sure, they have pick up right where they left off like they never missed a beat. But the physical device isn’t the same. People get very attached. I have seen the spectrum of emotion from wanting to hold an iPhone one last time before it goes into it’s coffin, (“Coffin” is the slang term we used to refer to the reusable, black, ABS plastic boxes that the replacement iPhones arrived in. But it wasn’t something you’d want to use in front of the customer for obvious reasons here.) to even outright emotional breakdowns with a parent telling a child that it was ok to let go and take the new iPad. A 12 year old crying on the floor because the iPad they received as a gift from a parent was going to be taken away, despite being exchanged for another one. It wouldn’t be the same physical one they received as a gift. That is a LOT of emotional value to place onto an inanimate object.

But people do, and I’m sure that you do as well. Remember earlier talking about Forrest Gump and how he spoke of shoes? I want you to do the same now with two of your most personal effects that are with you the most: your shoes and your wireless phone. Where have you gone with those things? What did you see? What did you experience? What people did you meet?What have you done with them that may even have affected your life? Did you go on a trip? Did you correspond via email for a new job, or a new love? Did you walk someplace famous? Don’t just think about how these things have changed your life, I want you to think about how they have been directly involved with your life. Go ahead take a minute or two to contemplate and think about it. Seriously, please do. Shoes and cell phone, 2 events each you’ve had with them. Go.


Are you thinking? I hope so. Go ahead and continue once you’re done…

So, what was that like? Maybe it was something small, maybe it was something big? Who knows. It’s your personal experiences, no one else’s. But you do have these connections whether you realize it or not. Furthermore, you also need to realize that no matter how much you would look down on something like this, there are other people who really do invest this much emotion in inanimate objects. So what does this have to do with cars? Lots! People know that you have these emotions not just with electronics, but even cars as well. Need proof? Here you go:


Yes, it is one of the most annoying commercials of all time. On the surface many lament it because it appears to be a vapid young woman who is clearly NOT a gearhead, not merely waxing nostalgic about the car she is assumed to have crashed, but her facial expressions are those of immature pouting which further irks many people. Certainly there are bad commercials that go into heavy rotation simply because they will annoy us and get the advertising jingles permanently stuck in our heads. But that’s not the case here. There are no real earworms to get stuck in our heads, yet of the series of car insurance commercials that were produced for the specific advertising campaign, this is the one spot that goes into heavy rotation. So why is that?

Easy: Love or Hate this commercial, the advertising agency knows for a fact just how emotionally invested you are in your vehicles. Think about it. We have a nameless character here, and she has completely anthropomorphized her car. She gave the thing a name, and now espouses about her emotional attachment to it, and is saddened by the broken attachment to it…


But then she talks about how her insurance company made things right for her. Not just by getting her a new car, but by helping her cope in order to get through this emotionally devastating situation. And she further communicates this by her facial expressions. She is reassuring the emotional viewer that the insurance company she is promoting has the advantage of not only replacing the car (which any competitor could do), but that they can also heal the emotional scarring of losing a beloved car. Sort of in the same way the funeral homes pitch themselves as being able to give the bereaved the same compassion and closure.


Sound crazy? Sound far fetched? Sure it does. But is it? Not a chance. It is as real as you are as your read this. Judging by the responses I received for my statement, this commercial is in heavy rotation because it is successful at hitting home for allot of you.

So what were the responses? Well, allow me to share them. What is interesting is despite that one little quote but the reader who submitted the question that clearly asked, “Is there anyway to make this poor misunderstood work of broken egg whites mine? Legally?”, almost everyone still accused me of a lack of reading comprehension. Which is ironic given the fact that they themselves were so emotionally invested in Doug’s article, that they didn’t even take the time to actually read it themselves. Go figure. But still, let us examine some of the more choice responses that I received, accompanied by the submitter’s usernames:


Whew - slow down there. I don’t think either “Horace” or Doug have suggested trying to steal the cars.


Again, this is the running theme here. Defending the person who is trying to take the car by way of clearly ignoring their own words.


I was almost shot by a lunatic for rummaging through his delorean that appeared to be abandoned next to a house, which also appeared to be abandoned. You guys would really hit it off.


Now while taking CrapcanPilot’s words at face value, I would never encourage anyone to blindly shoot a gun at anyone without any provocation, let alone at all. However, again, we have a person who is justifying both illegal actions of trespassing and auto burglar through their own twisted viewpoint.


“Because it’s mine/not yours and I’ll let it rot if I want to” is not a defense any jalop will ever accept. Also, it’s pretty stupid and selfish, and shows a lack of compassion and empathy for people that cannot afford $200+ a month to store old cars, let alone $200 a month for the car itself.


Covet your shit all you want. Once your shit is done being coveted, give it to someone else who’d treat it as you did when you first had it. Otherwise, tattoo the words ‘selfish douche’ on your forehead, and continue on your day.

Now this is a rather interesting response. I’ve always said that when I’m ready to pass on my car (because I am quite aware that I cannot take it with me), I would much rather it go into the hands of someone who would drive it on a regular basis, rather than end up rotting in a museum.


Likewise, exactly what is it again that I’m lacking compassion for? In my original response, I clearly stated that people should have compassion for the owner, as they do not know the circumstances involving these cars being parked and seemingly abandoned. It isn’t that I don’t have compassion, the problem is apparently that I don’t have compassion for criminals and thieving assholes.

And yes, a true “Jalop” will always respect the property of others. It is why at car shows we always lean over with our hands behind our backs so as to keep our hands out of the way, we don’t touch anything, and we NEVER just jump into other peoples’ cars for photo opprotunities. Anything less is a clear sign that you yourself are NOT a Jalop, car guy (or gal), gearhead, or enthusiast on any level. Respect for others is the core of these, and something any person with such an attitude clearly lacks.



Woah. Easy there champ. Nobody here suggested “stealing” a damn thing. I get that you’re all frothed into a rage because of some dipshits on another website but there’s a hell of a lot of transference going on here. It’s easy to find out if a car is actually abandoned or not. If they’re paying for the spot, problem solved and you can make an offer if you want. If not, it’s totally up to the owner of the garage if they want to have it removed or let it sit.


Sp TL;DR... chill out and stop being such a bitch.

Yes, I should “stop being such a bitch” because I’m trying to protect personal property from theft. It’s like I’m being yelled at by Bizzaro Ayn Rand. WTF?



I’ve met people like you before. I once approached an old man with a dilapidated service station about buying his first gen mustang that was rotting away to the side of the shop. And he went ballistic when I asked about it and ran me off. He actually told me that if I came back again he would call the sherif. So much for him doing my oil change and tire rotation. He died a couple years later and his family auctioned his stuff off. The mustang sold for less than a quarter of what I had offered him. I was mad because I didn’t have the space to take it on any more. But I did go talk to his son about my encounter with his dad, and he confirmed that his dad was a sentimental idiot with anger issues.


Now this one hit home a little bit. For years there was an abandoned DeLorean sitting in some guy’s driveway out in Vegas. I talked to him every once in a while and asked about buying his car, and he always rebuffed me. Then one day it disappeared once he finally sold it. It’s disappointing, and I totally get where quattro_for_life is coming from, because I’ve been in the exact same situation myself. But I don’t project anger at that DeLorean owner simply because I wasn’t there when the opportunity presented itself. That’s my fault, and I take responsibility for it. But again, I’m not feeding off of emotion, so…


Hey now, don’t got that rough on the guy asking the question, all of us here get emotional about cars, and it hurts to watch someone else neglect their amazing machine when you’re stuck driving a 15 year old Hyundai.


Yes, the abandoned car remains their property, but surely there is a point where a car is abandoned on someone else’s land where they can legally do something to remove it. After all, that Porsche is taking up a spot that another paying customer could use (and possibly pay a higher price!) And if the car in question was something like a rusted out Taurus, it probably would have been moved or sold off by now.

However, I do agree that the best course would be to contact the owner and make an offer based on what’s there. After all, if the owner abandoned it, they might be willing to sell it off to someone else to deal with the problem.


Woo hoo! Let’s go over this again! Even as a younger man (and even a child witnessing abandoned cars I wanted), I get the emotion and anger of seeing someone else with a cool car, even perhaps your dream car, and neglecting it. And then you get PISSED at them! Guess what? It’s still none of your business. Which by the way, it doesn’t matter which kind of car it is.

Also, whatever agreements the owner has with the person paying rent on a parking spot, that is between them and the person leasing the spot. Whatever conditions are apart of the lease contract for dilapidated vehicles, if any, and violations are between the the owner of the garage and the owner of the car. Which, again, is none of your business.



Having had a car stuck in distant storage because I did not have the resources to deal with it. I felt a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach because the poor thing was neglected and it was just rotting a thousand miles away. I had no way to sell it, not enough money to ship then fix it and it was nothing but a bad feeling generator that could only be dealt with through denial. If somebody stole it, I would have been so relieved.


Eventually I was able to find somebody to take it away for free.

I would be willing to bet a good percentage of abandoned car people would welcome a nice simple theft.


Again, something that hits home for me, as I once had a ’77 Ford Thunderbird with the 400 block and a town landau. Sweet ride, but alas I moved and could not take it with me. In hind signed, I should have, but I had to sell it. So I know what it’s like to have to part with a vehicle. Had I have had more of a passion for it, I probably would have found a way to keep it. But that’s on me.

But to say that anyone of us would gladly welcome a theft of any of our vehicles because the person who stole it would be a “better” owner and treat it better… Really? You actually believe this, and think that others do as well?


Mr Joshua:

“Here’s an idea: Leave the damn cars ALONE! They’re not yours, and unless you’re from code enforcement, they’re not your concern.”


Man, you are an ignorant POS.

Yes, I am so ignorant of the law, and personal property rights. As such, ALL law abiding citizens are total pieces of shit. Thank you for clearing that up.


Bearded Bastard:

If it’s abandoned on my property I will do what I can to remove it, or make it mine. Luckily where I live there are conditions where, if met, something abandoned on your property, like a car, can be made to be yours.


It needs to be sitting for a long time, as well as other conditions, but it can be done.

No, no you cannot. Even if you WERE the owner of said garage, you have the parking contract that you must abide by, lest you potentially lose your business in the ensuing law suits from your little auto theft ring.


And if you don’t own that property, it’s still not your concern.


Where do you live? I want to steal your car

And there it is. You knew it was coming, didn’t you, dear reader. The one who wants to steal my car. To perhaps punish me for whatever reason they’d like to, using whatever justification that they see fit.


Sure, you might say that this is a joke, and I supposed that it might very well be. But can you really take such a chance? I mean after all, we have a large group of people here with a hive mindset that totally justify not only such a statement, but the resulting action of it if this person wishes to follow through with it.

Now, this is all very fascinating to me, to say the least. Because I didn’t come here simply to write this post as a central rebuttal to my critics (although yes, it did serve a fine, dual purpose for such). I wanted to bring attention to the fact that these are just cars, and to explain to others why the overreactions. And here is the pinnacle of replies I received that precisely demonstrated my point.



I’ve known about this car for 20 years. That’s the last time I spoke to the owner. He’s probably long dead now, and the vacant lot where the car sits hasn’t been visited by anyone in at least a decade which is the last time I checked on it. 30 years under a plastic sheet in the Pacific Northwest turned an Alfa Romeo Guilietta Spider into dust.


I should have done something about it way earlier.


Cars are just lumps of metal, glass, plastic, rubber, and petroleum products. They’re not alive. Camera crews are not going into junkyards and garages with Sara McLaughlin playing over the footage, asking you to save the cars. And I know that it’s tough out there with seemingly waning car culture between regulations and autonomous cars. But here is the thing: These are just cars. They’re not sentient. They don’t feel emotion, They don’t care because they can’t.

And this isn’t just about “saving” cars either. We see this almost delusional psychosis with people that posses practically autistic fixations on cars when it comes to preservation as well. The Garage Queens, and over restored classics. The quest to NEVER let the odometer collect milage, to preserve it for all time…


But you know what? That’s none of my business either. I cannot look down on those people. I certainly do not agree with their practices, but I’ve no place to question them, nor chastise them either.

It matters not if I’ve a garage full of automotive Vestal Virgin’s, or a field full of neglected derelicts. If I may paraphrase Quentin Tarantino:

You see, under the law, my car here, is my property... and I can choose to do with MY PROPERTY... WHATEVER I SO DESIRE!


And yes, I chose the infamous character of Calvin Candie to help drive that point home. Whether I fix it, swap the engine, upholster the in alligator and peacock feathers, paint the stainless, restore the entire thing to concourse, or just let it rot in place, it is my choice to do so. Likewise, I will defend anyone wishes to do with their property what they wish, because not only is it their property, it is NOT a living breathing thing. It is a machine with no intelligence nor instincts, let alone feelings nor emotions. That my friend is your imagination.


In closing I would like to thank everyone involved here. Both my supporters, as well as my detractors. This is the second in my trilogy of Automotive Psychology, and this couldn’t have been done without you. You will one day be in my master thesis, rest assured.

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