The warts-and-all health benefits of cars

The warts-and-all health benefits of cars


THE most effective wart treatment I’ve ever found is the engine oil from a 1964 Wolseley. It was, specifically, a W28/40 Mk II. I’m not sure how old the oil was when it came gushing out of the sump all over my hands, but this was sometime in the early 1980s, and given the state of the car, and the oil, it would not surprise me if it was the original. Within two days, the skin on my hands was blemish-free. It’s perhaps best that I don’t delve too deeply into why.

Before you tag me as some sort of hideously disfigured toad-fondler, please let me point out that the US National Library of Medicine says “most” people will be affected (actually it says infected) by warts at some point in their life, usually when they’re younger, as I was, and most commonly on their hands and feet. If you’ve got them anywhere else, and statistically speaking about one in eight of you I will know what I’m saying, you should seek treatment immediately. Also, handling toads does not cause warts.

Helping a boyfriend with an engine change in an old British car - not just an oil change, but pulling out one engine and dropping in another - taught me two things. First, in future I will get someone else to do things like this for me; and second, I will never forget the first thing.

There’s actually no such thing a simple engine change. The new one has to come from somewhere, and that means getting it out of another car. Then you’ve got to get the engine out of the car you want to keep, and put the new one in. Then you’re left with an excess engine and you can’t just leave something like that lying around.

Oh, there’s a third thing I learned: tree branches bend so always use a proper engine hoist, otherwise you end up not so much removing an engine from a car as installing a tree into the engine bay.

The engine change seemed like a good idea as sort of crash-course in mechanics. In general I don’t think that one’s gender is an excuse for not having a grasp of the basics, and to this day I have little sympathy for anyone, man or woman, who can’t change a wheel for themselves. But why anyone would want to do an engine change for themselves is quite beyond me. When it comes to repairs and mechanical self-sufficiency there is a line that no one needs to cross. It is up to you where your line is. I know where mine is.

But to get back to my point, I have been pondering the health impact of cars beyond their wart-destroying potential since I came a cross an article that claimed cars are killing us, in three ways - one directly and often quite quickly, one more slowly and insidiously, and one indirectly.

We’re regularly crashing them, into other cars, and into objects both animate and inanimate. The World Health Organisation says traffic accidents kill about 1.25 million people a year. That’s a cheery thought. 

They’re killing us indirectly and insidiously through pollution, mostly though the nasty stuff in exhaust gases. Electric cars have no emissions, of course, so that at least shifts the pollution from where the cars are to where the electricity is generated. And since we don’t live there, we care less.

And finally, every trip we take by car rather then by physical exertion (walking, cycling, and so on) is indirectly doing us in by contributing to a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, sitting around for too long is possibly the greatest health risk of all, contributing to multiple adverse health outcomes in adults, according to the literature. This is something driverless cars won’t solve, because we’ll still be sitting on our increasingly squidgy bottoms with our arteries hardening while the car ferries us around (if I can mix my modes for transport there for rhetorical purposes).

Probably all of those health-related things are true. What I want to see, to balance the ledger, is a study of the health benefits of cars. 

How do you measure the impact of the joy that comes from driving, from the sensation of feeling alive? 

How do you assess the healthfulness of being able to jump in the car and drive it to a great holiday destination, for some serious de-stressing? 

What about those encounters in the back seat (you know what I mean) - surely they must be good for heart health? 

How do you factor in the benefits of the mobility and freedom a car gives a young person to break free from the shackles of an oppressive family or community, to socialise and find companionship and love?

And most importantly of all, how do you quantify the benefits of wart-free hands?