Men, Women and Automobiles

Column by Paul Hein.

Exclusive to STR

It comes as no surprise that “mater,” (Latin for mother) forms the root for “MATERnal.” But it also forms the root for “MATERial.” That’s significant, I think, suggesting that the woman’s world is the world of stuff, of things. Men, on the other hand, live in a land of ideas, abstractions, and dreams. How nicely the sexes complement each other! And isn’t it interesting that the ovum is the largest cell of the human body, the sperm the smallest? Biology and etymology tend to confirm human experience: men live in a conceptual world; women are immersed in things as they are.

These thoughts recurred to me the other day when my wife and I went to register our new car with its real owner, the state. We had received the necessary documentation from the dealer, which I had in my hand as we headed for the door.

“Do you have the personal property tax receipt, and the proof of insurance,” my wife asked. (In the past, she had performed this tedious chore herself, knowing well my aversion to any contact with the state or its flunkies.)

No, I didn’t. I had earlier gone to the state’s website, and found there what was required when registering a new car. No mention was made of proof of insurance or personal property tax receipts. I mentioned this to my wife. “You better take the property tax and proof of insurance,” she said, with shocking disregard for my erudition.

I employed logic: “The property tax only applies to automobiles owned on January 1. We bought this car in August. So no tax is due for another five months. Therefore, we can have no property tax receipt for this car.” Maddeningly, womanly, she said, “Take the personal property tax receipt.” And she added, “And the proof of insurance.”

We had received the proof of insurance documents from the insurance company only that day. “What,” I asked, “if we had gone yesterday to register the car? We wouldn’t have the proof of insurance. That’s why the regulations don’t require it.” Logical! Reasonable! Based upon the state’s own publication! “Take the proof of insurance,” my wife replied, “and the property tax receipt.”

“We don’t need either of those,” I replied, with some emphasis. “It doesn’t make sense to take them, and the state’s website doesn’t say they’re necessary.” “Take the property tax receipt, and proof of insurance,” she said, again. She said it gently, maternally, as though speaking to a not-so-bright child.

“You take them,” I said. “I’m not cluttering my pockets with unnecessary stuff.” The idea!

The woman at the license bureau took the papers from the dealer. She peered at them, and typed something on her computer keyboard. Tippety-tap, tippety-tap. She stared at the screen. More tippety-tap. More staring. A move of the mouse a quarter inch: Click. Tippety-tap, stare, and then over again. Was she going to discover that I was wanted by the police in 50 states, plus several Canadian provinces? Fortunately, no. Eventually the tippety-tapping and clicking stopped, and she gave us a friendly smile. “Ok,” she said. “Now I’ll need to see your personal property tax receipt.”

It seemed prudent to avoid eye contact with my wife. Instead, I gave my attention to the ceiling, calculating the number of ceiling tiles, as my wife handed over the receipt. When she had finished with it, the clerk said, “And proof of insurance?”

I carefully counted the tiles on the floor, as my wife again provided the proof. I could have explained to this poor woman that her demands were not only unreasonable, but not required by the regulations pertaining to the licensing of new automobiles. I could have pointed out the illogic of her requests. And when she said, “That’ll be thirteen hundred dollars, please,” I could have pointed out the absurdity, the injustice, the unreasonableness, of paying her $1,300 to obtain her permission to “own” what I had already bought and paid for. Instead, I simply wrote the check. Men live in the world of ideas, and the idea in my mind was: I’m beaten. I think my wife was smiling, but I lacked the courage to look. The tiles were re-counted.

It’s a man’s world? Don’t make me laugh!

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Paul Hein's picture
Columns on STR: 150


Samarami's picture

Nice essay, Paul! And astute in observing also!

I read once that women owned 79% of the earth's real property that can be entitled. But if they were so blamed brilliant they could own the other 21% too :-(

I've said for years that there is one, and one only "jurisdiction": the family unit. All others are coercive interlopers, sustained by massive superstition and augmented with force of arms. Sam

James Clayton's picture

One woman, who is often referred to as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, supposedly claims to own more land than any other woman or man on this planet. Her world is probably cluttered with a lot of stuff and things. But I'm sure she readily accepts the idea that she can own all that land and can reign over all the people who live on her land.

Jim Davies's picture

Queen Liz in her personal capacity may not own all that much; the holdings mainly relate to the office of monarch. Whoever sits on the throne is said to own it. None of them mixed their labor with it, of course, so the claim is bogus.
As far as I understand it, a series of such monarchs decided they would own North America, and chartered agents to go and grab it, in the name of the King. After the unfortunate event of 1781 took place, that claim was ceded to the American States, whose governments continued the pretense. That's why nobody here owns any land.

James Clayton's picture

The sexes do tend to complement each other nicely, most of the time, which is a good thing for survival and reproduction. And the family may indeed be the only viable governing unit and legitimate "jurisdiction". Parents can certainly “speak the law” and attempt to enforce some rules, but – perhaps just to prove that action speaks louder than words – children can certainly find ways to test the rules (although most adults may have been trained to stop doing this).
Families can generally be cohesive groups because individuals can often exhibit a favourable bias towards (genetic) relatives; and from a purely biological perspective we might only seem to be disposable vehicles for self-replicating molecules (those “selfish” genes!), but every human organism can also tend to be fairly self-interested (or “genetically self-interested”, since each person is his/her own closest relative).
People probably make choices and take action on the basis of some measure of costs and benefits, and families can certainly provide examples of governing units that can be mutually beneficial, with some sharing of risks and expenses – even without the express consent of the governed.