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The Social Effects of Going Topless July 19, 2006

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Cars, Friends, Technology.

No, I didn’t suddenly begin flaunting my ghostly white skin and tormenting the locals without polarized sunglasses. “Topless,” in this regard, means driving around with the top down in a convertible.


In a convertible, I’m out in the open, exposed to the world as I drive along. Is this a good thing?

Light Conversation
This morning, a friend of mine was stopped at a traffic light next to me. He rolled down his window, called my name, and we had a brief conversation. Would this have happened if I’d been driving a hardtop? Possibly, but my experience has been that it’s much less likely. There seems to be something about riding with the top down that encourages people to strike up a conversation with you when they’re nearby.

A Convertible: The Anti-iPod?
At some level, it seems that this is the antithesis of the isolation that we experience when we carry around an iPod (or other MP3 player) and earbuds in our ears. Instead of being sealed up in my cocoon, safe from the rest of the world, I’m out in the open, almost inviting social interaction.

Granted, the glaringly yellow color of my car probably encourages commentary, along with the “9K RPM” vanity license plate. Even so, my experience is that people are dramatically more likely to interact with me when the top is down than when it is up, so the color of the car and the license plate don’t seem to the as much of a factor.

Do Rolled-Up Windows Make Good Neighbors?
Is it a good thing that my chosen form of transportation frequently forces (from social pressure) me to engage with those who share the road with me? I don’t know, but in a society where we seem to find more and more reasons to isolate ourselves from each other in the physical world, even as we connect and interconnect more and more in virtual worlds (like this one), an old-fashioned “Hey, how are ya?” seems to re-align my sense of community in the places I live, work, and drive.

How much different would our world be if every time we hopped in the car, we could almost guarantee that someone outside of our vehicle would interact with us in some way?


1. litlove - July 20, 2006

I love the thought of a convertible, but I have longish hair and am afraid I might look like a haystack when I arrive at my destination. Probably not something that would bother you too much, unless you, too have long hair, Tim?

2. Donna - July 20, 2006

I, too, love the interaction with people when I drive with my top down. But it’s also a sense of freedom that I get that I love more than that. Driving my van is boring, driving my convertible is wonderful.

3. Tim - July 21, 2006

When my hair is long enough to have a bad hair day, then I know it’s too long. 😀 – Tim

4. tiffanytaylor - July 21, 2006

Personally, I can’t imagine ever again going without a convertible. It’s wonderful to be able to see the world spread all around; it makes me feel vastly more connected to my surroundings. I wish that my Cutlass (http://www.hubcapcafe.com/ocs/pages01/olds7104.htm) got more than about 10 mph, but it’s still wonderful for evening drives in the country. Plus, the benefit of having a convertible the size of a boat is that it holds up to six people, or fewer people if one or more dogs come along for a ride. 🙂

5. Tim - July 21, 2006

Donna: When I had a van, I worried about my teenage sons taking it out on dates (a context in which the van might be more interesting than the convertible). In this car, doing anything inappropriate would require gymnast-level flexibility (something neither of my sons are blessed with) and FEMA-like planning!

Tiffany: Your Cutlass only goes 10 mph? 😀 As for the dogs vs. people, that’s one of the advantages of a 2-seater. In this car, it’s one driver + one passenger, regardless of species. (Unless we’re talking about my sons, in which case the capacity is one driver + .9 sons.) If the dogs have long hair, do they get the “haystack” effect that litlove mentioned? – Tim

6. tiffanytaylor - July 21, 2006

The Cutlass will go about 80+ mph, but driving it in that manner for long will reduce the 10 mpG to a number approximating zero.
The answer to haystack hair is to wear a scarf or a bandana; that’s what I did ages ago when I had long hair and and an MGB (http://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/pw/images/mgb.jpg). A scarf would look funny on the dog’s head, though, and my dogs pretty much look like haystacks all the time, so I don’t worry about them.

7. Lady Ingenious - July 28, 2006

I would definately have to wear my hair in a pony tail if i was to attempt such a ride! I never thought of the socialability of a convertable `till now..makes good sense.. Encouraging people to interact if even for a moment..! Now..speaking of color! I currently ride in a burnt copper double cab..i see lots of people admire the color…what i have noticed though, is that the windows are tinted..which does inhibit some eye contact..but, on a bad hair day…that can be a good thing..LOL!
Gotto get ready for work…bye for now!

8. Tim - July 29, 2006

It happened again last week. A guy saw that I had a Dell computer box in the passenger seat (no way to put it in the trunk), and asked where I bought it, etc.. As for the bad hair day, I tend to keep mine cut pretty short. If it’s long enough for a bad hair day, it’s too long! 😀 – Tim

9. Lady Ingenious! - August 4, 2006

Yesss, I guess it would be too long at that! *likes `em clean-cut!*
I have thought it would be fun, as a woman, to sit up on the back of a convertable and let the wind flow through my hair! I`ve seen it in a movie, looks fun! Also,I now suppose that driving through town is a lot different, many interesting interactions with the community are possible!

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