Imagine that you live in a country where every car has a tarp on it, not just when it’s parked, but when you drive it too.
The tarps have holes where the windows of the car would be, so you can see out. When you open and close the door to get in and out of the car, you have to be careful that the tarp stays in place. When you drive home at the end of the day, you park the car in the garage, close the door so no one can see, and only then can you remove the tarp and look at your own car.
But most of the time you don’t bother to look at the car, because you hate your car. Your car is ugly and the paint is the wrong color. There’s a a dent in one of the fenders. Looking at it just reminds you of how unhappy you are and how much you wish you had a better car. So you’re fine with keeping the tarp on it all the time when you go out. You don’t want anyone else looking at your car.
The car you wish you had is a sleek powerful sports car with shiny paint. You have pictures of cars like that. The pictures are on calendars, in magazines, and on your computer. You spend about an hour every day looking at those pictures of exotic cars. You have several favorites. You almost never get to see one of those cars in person. Once in a while there’s a car show where you can pay $20 to go inside a dark windowless building and see these beautiful cars (just look, don’t touch!) but you personally never go to those places because you’re scared someone will see you there.
Then one day, you hear about towns where people drive around in their cars without tarps. Just bare paint and chrome right out there in the open! Your heart beats faster just thinking about it. You wonder if that town has a high car theft rate. How could anyone possibly control themselves when you can just see the car right there out in the open? Eventually you decide that the people who live in this town must be the bravest people in the world. It sounds like the kind of place you have to see for yourself. But you’re still scared that someone might see you there.
Eventually you work up the courage to go to one of those towns when you’re on vacation. You drive there (with your tarp firmly in place, of course) and then you reach the city limits. You take the tarp off your car and drive on in. Look! There’s another car driving around tarpless! It’s just a minivan, but you think there’s bound to be plenty of exotic sports cars nearby. You head for downtown. Pretty soon you’re surrounded by naked cars, hundreds of them. Minivans, pickup trucks, 4-door sedans, hatchbacks, and even a few 2-seater convertibles. But none of them are sleek and powerful sports cars like the ones you saw in the pictures.
The colors are all pretty ugly too. Very few of the cars are beautiful candy apple red or baby blue. Most of them are silver or tan (boring!) or navy blue or forest green (ugly!). And so many of the fenders are dented. Some of them even have cracked windshields. Your stomach turns over. This is a huge disappointment. You simply can’t understand why the only cars here on display are UGLY cars, the kind of cars which SHOULD be kept covered up all the time because nobody wants to look at them. You’ve seen more minivans and pickup trucks in one day than you ever saw in your whole life up to this point. You put the tarp back on your car and go home.
It’s nice to be back home, where everything makes sense. You keep the tarp on your car like you’re supposed to. You still spend an hour a day looking at pictures of cars. Fancy shiny cars. Amazing sports cars. Race cars with stripes. Exotic rare custom built cars. Cars with perfect paint jobs. And every car you pass in the street, you’re glad they have tarps on them. Because you don’t want to know if their paint is faded or scratched. You don’t want to see dented fenders on boxy station wagons. You’re happier with the fantasy. Of course, you still feel bad that your own car is ugly. But that’s okay, because you don’t have to look at it. You just have to drive it.