I was reminded of the poem below the other morning as I approached the robot (traffic light) outside the local prep school: a small boy was standing stiffly to attention next to a car parked on the opposite side of the school. The pedestrian light showed red. When it turned to green he began walking in a stiff, mechanical (robot-like) manner along the yellow line towards the marked pedestrian crossing.
He then stuck out his left arm, still holding it stiffly, and flashed his fingers as an ‘indicator light’ to show that he was turning left. He continued walking across the road in this mechanical manner, turned on the pavement to face his mother still in the waiting car, and gave her a jerky salute before rushing up the grassy verge and disappearing behind the trees bordering the school campus.
The Sad Tale of a Motor Fan by H. A. Field
Young Ethelred was only three
Or somewhere thereabouts when he
Began to show in diverse ways
The early stages of the craze
For learning the particulars
Of motor bikes and motor cars.
It started with a little book
To enter numbers which he took,
And ‘though his mother often said
“Now do be careful Ethelred.
Oh dear, oh dear what should I do
If anything ran over you?”
Which Ethelred could hardly know
And sometimes crossly told her so…
It didn’t check his zeal a bit
But rather seemed to foster it.
Indeed it would astonish you
To hear of all the things he knew
He’d guess the make and get it right
Of every car that came in sight.
He knew as well its MPG
Its MPH and LSD,
What gears it had, what brakes and what;
In short he knew an awful lot.
Now when a boy thinks day and night
Of motor cars with all his might
He gets affected in the head
And so it was with Ethelred.
He took long drinks from mug and cup
To fill his radiator up.
And went about upon all fours
And usually, to get indoors
He pressed a button then reversed
And went in slowly back most first.
He called himself a Packford Eight
And wore a little number plate
Attached behind with bits of string
He looked just like the real thing.
He drove himself to school and tried
To park himself (all day) outside.
At which the head became irate
And caned him on his number plate.
And then one day an oily smell
Hung around him and he wasn’t well.
“That’s odd,” he said, “I wonder what
Has caused this rumbling pain I’ve got?
No car should get an aching tum
From taking in petroleum.”
At that he cranked himself but no…
He couldn’t get himself to go.
He merely whirred a bit inside
And gave a faint chug-chug, and died.
Now since his petrol tank was full,
They labelled him inflammable
And wisely saw to it that he
Was buried safely out at sea.
So if at any time your fish
Should taste a trifle oilyish
You’ll know that fish has lately fed
On what remains of Ethelred.