I have never been big on anthropomorphising things – attributing objects or other animals with human qualities has never had that much appeal to me. My transportation devices, however, seem to be different. My cars gain names, even ones hired on holiday, and usually not names you would want to give to a person (a bit like pets’ names). Now, my new bike, Brompette (also the subject of another post), has not only a name but a personality. Of course, in many ways the two go together.
We make a lot of choices with our transportation, especially if we are privileged to buy things from new, and I wonder if this feeds into my will to mark them as unique beings. How fast, easy to handle or economical; how many wheels, gears, gadgets…? The stereotypical gendered choice is the colour, and with my new folding bike, I waited extra time for the factory to make mine in the shade I had chosen, as well as for the type of handle bars, suspension and other accessories I had selected from a menu-like tick sheet.
Naming things also reinforces our relationship with them. In this case, it is a relationship of trust reflecting that we place our lives in the handling of these tools, which must be reciprocated by treating them with care by maintaining them; and with respect by remembering that they can quickly become dangerous to us and others.
For me, the name and personality emerge from how the car or bike handles, reminding me of how I need to work with them when I am on the road. I made a bad route choice recently, taking Brompette on a bumpy, loose surface, which (in my imagination) neither of us enjoyed. Of course, she is not capable of feeling, but the stones pinged of the spokes, the frame bounced and the wheels churned reluctantly, making it pretty clear to me that it was not good for her (or me, for that matter, reminding me that I chose a road-riding bike for a reason). I immediately got to work cleaning her and re-inflating her tyres when we got home, so that next time I want to go out for a more appropriate ride, she is ready too.