I think cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothiccathedrals. I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object.
Driving is a spectacular form of amnesia. Everything is to be discovered, everything to be obliterated. Admittedly, there is the primal shock of the deserts and the dazzle of California, but when this is gone, the secondary brilliance of the journey begins, that of the excessive, pitiless distance, the infinity of anonymous faces and distances, or of certain miraculous geological formations, which ultimately testify to no human will, while keeping intact an image of upheaval. This form of travel admits of no exceptions: when it runs up against a known face, a familiar landscape, or some decipherable message, the spell is broken: the amnesic, ascetic, asymptotic charm of disappearance succumbs to affect and worldly semiology.
Nine-tenths of our crimes an' calamities are made possible by th' automobile. It has unleashed all th' pent-up criminal tendencies o' th' ages. It's th' central figure in murders, hold-ups, burglaries, accidents, elopements, failures an' abscondments. It has well nigh jimmed th' American home.... No girl is missin' that wuzn' last seen steppin' in a strange automobile.... An' ther hain't a day rolls by that somebuddy hain't sellin' ther sewin' machine, or ther home, or somethin' t' pay on an automobile.... Maybe th' jails an' workhouses are empty, but that's not because th' world is gittin' better. It's because all th' criminals escape in automobiles.
Kin Hubbard writing for his character, "th' Hon. Ex.-Editur Cale Fluhart."
Quoted in Norris W. Yeats, The American Humorist: Conscience of the Twentieth Century, Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1964, p. 107.
Averroës, Kant, Socrates, Newton, Voltaire, could any of them have believed it possible that in the twentieth century the scourge of cities, the poisoner of lungs, the mass murderer and idol of millions would be a metal receptacle on wheels, and that people would actually prefer being crushed to death inside it during frantic weekend exoduses instead of staying, safe and sound, at home?