the subculture of ignorant but intelligent youth

Le Garage Hopping

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garage (n.) 

1902, from French garage “shelter for a vehicle,” originally “a place for storing something,” from verb garer “to shelter,” from Middle French garer “to shelter, dock ships,” from Frankish *waron “to guard” or some other Germanic source (compare Old High German waron “take care”), from Proto-Germanic *war-, from PIE root *wer- (5) “to cover” (see warrant (n.)).


There are few aspects of life in our time so ubiquitous as those related to Car. Roads, highways, freeways, bridges, tunnels, and an insatiable hunger for fossil fuel reflect its significance. Emotionally, Car is the diploma of adulthood for youth, and the emblem of power, freedom, and success for the adult. A very poor person may find transformative significance in the acquisition in an expensive and beautiful Car. We despair when denied the right to Car by a judicial decision, injury, illness, or old age.   We worship the deity, Car.


Nonbelievers–who have no devotion to Car at all–, are rare. Even they cannot live entirely without Car, for that is  to exist outside society; they worship Car tacitly. In general, while usually outraged by unapproved death from war, neglect, abuse, or murder, we obediently sacrifice several tens of thousands of friends, children, and neighbors to Molloch-like  Car each year.

One’s economic and civic status is best measured by the housing and care of Car: The garage. A multi-car garage, or elegant car barn is at one end of the spectrum and street-side storage or pubic transportation at the other. But in either case, those are extremes. The majority of us live in that ample and average middle ground of small homes with one or two car Garages. Even so, we spend religiously on Car. For the average person, the relative value of Car is about 4:1 compared to anything else:

1)  The average small home contains about 1600-2000 square feet while the average 22 x 24 (528 square ft.) garage is more than 4 times the space devoted to a one or two child bedroom–10 x 11 (110 square ft.).

2)   The average cost of raising a child to age 18, not considering college, is at least $50,000, while the average cost of a Car over the same period is, at a minimum, $148,500, at 15,000 miles per year.

Whether grand or humble, the Garage is a Temple, dedicated to Car, and consecrated by space and expense. Yet to judge from my own garage, I am a sinner or hypocrite. I profess my religion publicly and act differently in private, hoping for ultimate forgiveness. And I am not alone. Consider my friend John Ciervo, returning home on an average winter evening after a long work-day.

Mr. Ciervo parks his brand new Volvo in the driveway, knowing there is no room inside the garage. An electronic genie obeys an Aladdin that  silently speaks. The cavernous door opens, over the cries of an irritable worm drive.   Ciervo is blinded at first by the door opener lights, and begins to shuffle forward cautiously. There is no altar, no incense, no beeswax candles. His garage has been profaned, in large part by through his own sins of omission and commission.

Ciervo stumbles over a broken lawn mower, almost landing on some scattered bicycles in assorted states of disrepair. He sidesteps a table on furniture-death-row. He skirts the leaking water from a frosted over deep-freeze, and turns off a washing machine that is spinning off balance. He picks up a soiled Godmother Pizza box that has fallen from the overflowing recycle bin.

There is a newspaper on the stained cement floor where the front page article catches his eye. It is about garage hopping, the teen-age fad of stealing beer or electronics from neighborhood garages. The report focuses on a hopper  and killed. Startled, Ciervo looks outside and quickly actuates the garage door closer. The article raises questions:

Is it murder, or justified force, to repel a garage –home invasion? Should teen-hoppers be judged as children or adults?An online quote comes to Ciervo’s  mind, one he saw at work that morning in a comment string about that very question, including this entry from a wise and wily contributor:

 for one I see chicago has gotten stricked well it all depends if you get a good cop and you are polite you will get off with a slap on the rist but in your case i will look fast for a law pointed attorny and ask as many questions as posible the law in your eyes are not played like in t.v so good luck kid and trust me i know keeeep out of roofs. edmit you were doing it and let them know you ment no harm all you were trying to do was go from one roof to the other i see your play time is way over hmm

Ciervo blinks in the bright light, and reflects.“ That kid is clearly intelligent, and cyber-connected; but he -or she- subsists in a disconnected subculture that doesn’t live, or dream, the American Dream. Why?” He throws down the newspaper. “Are kids like this the reason our country is falling behind by most measures of well being? Or am I the problem?” He laughs aloud and remarks to the sullen garage: “ I am. I Owe Therefore I Am.”

A 130 decibel base beat from an unseen muscle car slowly swaggers by, rattling a dirty windowpane. A startled daddy long legs begins shaking her web hopefully. A distant siren sounds; then two, then three.

Ciervo goes inside. No one is awake. He plops down on the MadeinChina duck feather stuffed pig leather couch and wands up the new 42-inch Vietnam made LED TV. The talking head weatherperson jokes and drones on interminably about the weather outside, as if it were invisible. He channel flips to other news, but all  the heads regurgitate the same thing in the same words.

In the midst of a loan consolidation ad he breaks out in a broad grin and addresses the TV :“Drop dead up youdickhead drone! Neither this street, nor this house, nor this garage nor that car are mine. All of it belongs to The Washington DC Bank of Wells America. I’m sheltered, merde! ” And reaching for the remote, C. Camus Ciervo adds wryly: