WHY are we here?
I’m not lying on my back watching the glory of the sparkling heavens as whole galaxies wheel across the night sky. I have not just observed the birth of a whale or the miracle of a flower opening.
I’ve lost my pencil down the side of the car seat.
My question is not prompted by a sense of my own unimportance. It’s prompted by a haunting conviction that the gods have marked me down for something important.
Pain comes in different forms. One of the most exquisite (if you’re a god) is watching people trying to find stuff that has fallen down the side of the car seat.
It used to be that they had to be content with sofas. But humans have learned over the millennia how to retrieve things from down the side of a sofa or an armchair. Removable cushions!
So the gods went back to the drawing board. First they invented cars. Rather, they made us invent them, which involved providing humans with brains that were pretty high-grade.
But before we could get around to inventing car seats they played the ultimate bad joke â€“ they took the brains back. The result was America, Australian Idol, Gordon Ramsey and car seats.
I had a car once that was so old bits of it were made of wood. When it finally died I took out the driver’s seat. I don’t remember why. I do remember that under it, and in it, and around where it had been I found enough small change to buy a house, three ball point pens, a note that said: “Don’t forget to tell her you love her when you get home” (so that’s why I’m living alone!), a hairbrush and the cat.
We’ve moved on since those days. Designers have had time to refine the art of making car seats and they’ve done very well. Now you can lose your children down there (not necessarily such a bad thing), and if you’re inclined to try to fish them out, you may lose your fingers as well.
There must be another way! We can fly people to the moon! We can write symphonies, repair people’s brains (sometimes), invent the internet â€“ why can’t we invent a car seat that is loss proof?
It’s not just trivial human frustration that makes me say this. It would probably save lives. You can’t hurtle towards the toll bridge at high speed while you’re trying to retrieve the money for it from underneath the metal rail that holds the seat on.
That’s probably where the expression “death toll” comes from.
And the hygiene issues are terrifying. You can’t get a vacuum cleaner hose down the side of a car seat, where apple cores rot, and cockroaches congregate. Even severed fingers are hard to get at.
And now I don’t have a pencil. Do cockroaches eat pencils? Can a car have termites? Should I try to poke it out with a ruler (in which case I’ll probably lose the ruler, or just put this one, with all the others, down to experience?
I don’t know the answer. I don’t know why we’re here either, but it’s obviously not to design car seats.