itty corner from my humble abode sits a little house containing three bundles of testosteronemales between the terrifying ages of 16 and 20. What they do for entertainment is very simple: sit in the driveway and gun engines of every sort, day in, day out. Mini bikes; motorized scooters; cars of various makes and homages to rust; even a souped-up riding lawnmower. That last jolly mode of transport one of the older boys steers off the driveway, running it in existential circles around a tree in the yard, an activity that would have reached dirt if the contraption still mowed, but evidently that's not the point. Perhaps he's circling the Tree of Life, and I'm just being cynical.
As I stare up to the heavens and ask "Why, Lord?" I remember: I can't trust myself to accurately identify a bona fide Heavenly reply. Once, I moved into an entire apartment based on what I considered to be a sign from God. Soon after moving in, I was thrown a festive house-warming by an extended family of mice. Not long after that, water bugs the size of Volkswagens paid me a call in my bathtub. I greeted them with my hard-cover Webster's dictionary. Praise the Lord.
While we wait for a higher authority to step up to the plate, be a man already, and give off clearly audible, unambiguous signals, I have provided here a professional assessment of male vehicle-driveway-noise-unbearable behavior by one Dr. Thelma Barnes, Chair of Psychology, Indianapolis Conservatory of Practical Applications:
"Your first response to hearing the roar of an unmuffled engine is likely to be a rather heated, 'What is up with that?' as the young people say. Quite an understandable reaction, to the untrained ear. But if you listen more carefully, you shall detect as I have the unmistakable call of the wild. Yes, your young male is expressing, through his motley collection of fossil-fueled vehicles, the primitive male growl in all its splendid variation!
What your group of young men is doing, unconsciously but magnificently, is symbolically recreating a pack of ancestral males, each with his own place in the group based on age and experience. Let us examine each type more closely.
The spritely Scooter Male can be spotted easily of a summer's day, hopping aboard his motorized scooter, gliding up and down the driveway, or even venturing out onto the sidewalks of his neighborhood. His vehicle, like himself, is not ready for the big streets, and, though his scooter's weed-wacker-like call cleverly penetrates even the most sound-proof of windows, it does not possess the deep, roaring quality of his older pack mates' vehicles.
Have Scooter Male over for teaas I have done to interview him for my behavioral evolutionary researchand you will learn that he is an average age of 16. Which means that he will be legalthat is legally able to votein just two short years. If you put cookies out with the tea, you increase the chances of his returning to your office to answer more research questions. Or in your case, more layperson questions of somewhat less impact to the behavioral scientific community.
The low but powerful rumble emitted by Dirt-Bike Male's trusty vehicle symbolizes the restlessness of its adolescent rider. Caught between the ways of the child and the man, Dirt-Bike Male growls loudly and persistently. Clearly he calls out for guidance to continue successfully to the next developmental stage. I have found that what we professionals call "passive guidance"in this case tea and cookies spiced with the occasional cigarettenicely fills the role nature used to play in encouraging a middle pack member to move on to full manhood. Nonfilters are best.
Roaring heartily throughout the entire neighborhood, the engines tuned by Corvette Male gainfully attract herds of females in halter tops and frayed shorts. In his confidentsome would even venture cockyfashion, Corvette Male displays no less than the resonance of our ancestors growling lustily during rutting season (La Saison du Rut) and ensuring the continuation of our species into the present day! Rather than condemn Corvette Male, we must embrace him, as I have done, metaphorically speaking, with tea and lots and lots of cookies, because his appetite is ravenous. And because my research so depends on accurate, longitudinal results, I leave out a little beer with the cigarettes.
Once an ancestral male had departed his physical peak, he instinctively set himself a more relaxed pace. So, too, does Riding Lawnmower Male relinquish speed and tawdry females for comfort and routine. Although he is no less the prodigious noisemakerfor mufflers are his natural enemyhe would rather circle the tribal tree than growl and compete for 20 or 30 mates. Thus he is best left alone, for he has completed his journey and can be casually observed through a window in between visits from other pack members."
Thank you, Dr. Thelma Barnes. I leave readers with one request of the good doctor: should you find yourself plagued by young boys of the engine-loving sort, please refer "each and every one of them" to Dr. Barnes. Donations of cigarettes and beer are also welcome.
© 2006 Kate Heidel