Atlas – Air France n°92 – February 1974
The automibole is that gasoline-burning contraption which everyone has been talking about lately. I’ll admit to you outright: I don’t like the automibole.
The other evening, Archiloques and I were seated on the sidewalk, peacefully meditating and watching the crazy throng of automiboles pass by, when suddenly one of them skidded on the pavement and swerved into the gutter, sending a gush of sticky blackish mud all over our feet.
Not a wrinkle stirred on the impassive face of Archiloques, who, poet by trade, finds it natural to have dirty feet. But I, who had bathed just the week before (or very nearly), regarded with bitterness the viscous substance oozing over my own toes.
“Cursed be the automibole!” I uttered with fervor. “Cursed be the inventors of the double downdraft carburetor. May their corpses be devoured by cockroaches. Cursed be the pipelines, the refineries and the oil wells. May they be rotted by rust and invaded by brambles, stinking hellebore and wild pumpkin. May the screech owl nest in their ruins and the desert jackal relieve himself against their crumbling walls.”
“Amen”, said Archiloques. “But I must add, he continued after a moment of silence, you’re a bit unfair to the automibole. Just think, before its invention, folly was an esoteric phenomenon. In order to see it, one had to enter the home. Spy at doors. Pierce through the wall of private life, so to speak. The automibole has changed all that.
“Long live the freedom of folly, backfiring in the streets and on the highways, passing in high gear at the crests of hills, accelerating at intersections, signalling right and turning left, speeding through the fog, and — when the inevitable accident occurs — always claiming that it’s the other driver’s fault. To be sure, this spectacle would be even more amusing if it were not marred by the frequent transformation of folly into violence.
“Be that as it may, we still have the automibole to thank for making folly an integral part of the environment, like flies and vegetation. Gone, all camouflage. In the past, an imbecile could live a hundred years without being noticed. How can he pass unnoticed nowadays? The moment he takes the driver’s seat, he gives himself away.”
Archiloques paused for a moment and sighed. “The trouble is, he concluded, that we all give ourselves away. Ah, mankind! What sad specimens!”■