Caleb Crain waxes lyrical on a device I’ve found tends to draw blank stares from drivers in other parts of the country: Car diapers (or call them what you will: Coupe Condoms, Grille Guards, or by their actual monikers, Bumper Badgers, etc.)
Another thing I’ve long meant to blog about: car diapers. I wonder whether they exist outside Park Slope. In how many American neighborhoods do parallel parking, overprotectiveness, and automobile vanity co-exist? The car diaper is a large sheet of rubber that is draped over a car’s rear fender in order to protect it from the scratches and scrapes incidental to parallel parking. They aren’t called car diapers, of course, by their purveyors. Indeed they seem to have sort of self-consciously aggressive names, like “Bumper Bully” and “De-Fender.” But car diapers is what they look like. Some are attached by shutting them half in and half out of the trunk, so they flop over the fender, usually with a cut-out so that the license plate remains visible. A driver rarely scrapes up another car’s rear fender while parallel parking, because one always has a clear view of the other car’s rear fender. It’s one’s own rear fender that one scrapes, by misjudging the distance behind. So a car diaper is a responsible and civic thing to own—an admission of one’s incontinence as a driver, or anyway, as a parallel parker. Still.
I often wonder why (most) cars actually lost their extruding bumpers to begin with (look at those big rubber bricks on old Volvos) — some push for imagined aerodynamicism on the part of car drivers I suppose.
But Caleb’s post raises another issue that I’ve long wondered about: Do we need a special word to describe that curious metaphysical condition by which someone purchases a new consumer bauble that is so delightful, so gleaming and unscathed and yet so preciously fragile, that one must subsequently sheath it in protective covering — which often tries itself, a la iPhone, to be itself distinctive or wonderful but always fall short of the original, hidden object — that masks its unscathed delightfulness, which can then only be retrieved in rare fugitive moments when one has unstripped the protection, inhaling the original aura, but with each of these exposures bringing the risk of new blemishes, new forms of decay, that will itself make the process of unsheathing it (and resheathing it) that less special, until eventually the impulse to cover has been lost completely.
[the above image is Dominic Wilcox’ ‘anti-theft’ stickers, which preemptively degrade the consumer object to lessen its value]
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