How to spot a car android

MY neighbour is an android.

If you chopped his arm off you’d expose wires, steel rods and silicon chips.

I know this because I have driven in his car. There are two kinds of car owners. My kind, who have budgie seed growing into exotic plant species in the door sills, the aroma of last year’s spilt milk in the carpets, and dog hairs and biscuit paste in the seats.

And his kind, who have cars so clinically sterile you could safely perform surgery on the seats (but if you did, of course, they’d kill you).

How do people do that?

I’ve already answered my own question. They’re not people; they’re androids. They buy a new set of footwell mats every week so there’s never any sign of wear, and there’s a box of tissues carefully stowed in a special tissue-stowing area, handily placed for easy access when they desperately need to wipe a tiny speck off the windscreen, or the steering wheel, or the dashboard.

Which will happen every 20 seconds.

Their feet never scuff the door panels. Dust doesn’t settle on horizontal surfaces. There’s nothing in the boot, not even an old rag, and every single piece of equipment in the spare tyre compartment is there and stowed neatly in its correct space!

Which, as real human beings know, is impossible except in showrooms.

It’s a well known fact that the minute you have paid for the car and driven it home the windscreen will grow smears that are indelible, sand will powder the back seats, even if you haven’t been to the beach for 15 years, the car jack will be missing and the glove box will contain three Magnum wrappers, a wad of cotton wool with something disgusting on it, 12 empty CD cases, a Referdex for Bendigo (you live in Townsville) several bits of Lego and the receipt for a set of tyres you bought five cars ago.

They will all be crushed beyond recognition beneath a six-week-old sandwich.

But not if you’re my neighbour. He (and his wife) have children. They must manufacture them. It simply isn’t possible that they made them in the traditional way. Their house has all the standard fittings, like the fridge, but it’s inconceivable that it has food in it. Probably spare circuits and machine oil.

You are jealous, I hear you say, because you’re a slob and they’re not. Well, yes, it’s true that I’m a slob, but it’s not true that I’m jealous.

I’m frightened. I’m sure they’re pod people, and they’re taking over the world. I’ve seen them in petrol stations. They carry purses! And they keep their silver and their gold coins in separate compartments. When they fill their cars with fuel they have a handy little cloth for wiping the lid that covers the petrol pipe.

But it’s not even this that frightens me. It’s the fussiness. It’s the awful attention to personal detail; the caring too much. I have the same fears about people whose beards are too neat. Or who wear matching clothes. Or who keep the electric kettle in a cupboard and its flex in a drawer.

I have the same fears about people who drive the latest model Mitsubishi when all I drive a 1988 Holden Commodore with stuffing coming out of the seat.

I wondered if maybe we were being taken over by aliens, but my wife says they’d take one look at our car and fly out to find a different planet, with better prospects.