The Psychology of Anthropomorphism

Anyone who knows me, knows Sammy. He’s my car. Yes, not only did I name my car, but I also gave him a gender. I even decided to go against the grain of “normalcy” in this instance and make him male rather than the traditional female gender, assigned most often to seafaring vessels but probably applicable across the transportation board.

I love Sammy. Not in the way that most people today love their cars, as extensions of massive yet vacuous egos. He’s not “tricked out” in any way other than floormats imprinted with my favorite cartoon canine and a radio I bought for him 8 years ago to replace the standard one that had no CD player. He’s got several dings and scratches in his paint job, and each one pains me…not because of any vanity on my part, but simply because he received them while under my care. I failed to take care of him in those instances, and now he wears the scars as reminders of my inability to be everywhere at once, much to my own personal chagrin.

Does all this sound a bit crazy? Of course it does. It’s He’s a car. But he’s a car I have owned for almost 9 years. Sammy has taken me thousands of miles in that time, but the “life distance” is measured in quite different terms. In terms of laughs, tears, confusion, heartbreak, giddiness, loss, anger…all carried within his sleek silver frame. It amazes me how much life takes place inside a car when you live in this area. They become our own little microcosm for hours at a time, conveying us and those we love to whatever destination we can reach on four wheels. I’ve conducted business and pleasure in that car, laughed and cried, sung unrepentantly off-key as miles ticked by on his odometer, sought solace in his silence when sound was just too much to bear.

Is it any wonder we ascribe human attributes to inanimate objects? Sammy is just as much a part of my life as any “real” person, has played just as important a role. This mesh of metal and mechanized motion has treated me very well, taken me places both wonderful and difficult, but has always protected me as we’ve gone along. More happiness is wrapped around him than I’d ever considered until today. And I considered all this while commuting home…in Sammy. He is my favorite location to get lost in the strangest thoughts.

Now I sit typing all this up on another inanimate object into which I have imbued a sense of anthropomorphic love: my home computer. This is the last computer that my uncle ever built for me. It was one of the last things we ever discussed on the last time I ever saw him. Every single time I turn this computer on, I think of him…of how much he loved building computers, how much he loved to talk about technology, to tell me about the latest new techie toy he had his eye on. I think of how he passed that love on to me. I think of how we would talk about things like how beautiful my latest computer case looked. I’ve had non-techie people laugh at me when I say something like that around them, but it’s true. My computer is beautiful, with its silver sheen, see-through side panel, and neon blue glow. It’s even more beautiful because my uncle built it specifically for me.

And now he’s gone while this beautiful silver machine keeps on running, because of him.

I don’t know why I’m so pensive about these things today. No, that’s not true. Yesterday would have been my grandmother’s birthday. What pains me most is that I forgot until this morning that yesterday was her birthday. It caused a bit of an existential shudder as I then began to panic that I would forget about her, about all the people I have loved and lost. Jumping to the worst case scenario is one of the exercises at which I completely excel, as I’m sure you can tell.

I know this won’t happen. I think about her all the time. I’ve gone out of my way, in fact, to surround myself with things that will serve as mnemonics for the wonderful memories of all these people whose paths I was lucky enough to share for such a short, bittersweet time.

I’m not really sure how to end this entry, so I’ll just slip away silently. Maybe I’ll go take a drive. I’m sure Sammy will be up for the adventure…