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Fiction || Obsession (Larry Lefkowitz)

My husband has been obsessed for some time with replacing gas fueled vehicles (“gas guzzlers”) with electric battery fueled vehicles. He is fond of quoting a Tesla Car forum user: “I got tired of being a sucker and paying for over-priced crude oil knowing the money was going to Islamo nut jobs that want to kill me.” He, my husband, is a “green nut” par excellence. A laudable obsession, you say. But wait. His obsession led him to a sub-obsession. The Tesla Motors electric car – read: the model S sedan. And lately the Model X SUV.

My husband wanted to change the name of our pooch from “Poochie” to “Elon Musk.” Elon Musk is the CEO of Tesla Motors. Here I put my foot down. He had to settle for naming our goldfish, “Elon Musk.” We are the only family in the world with a goldfish named Elon Musk. Even Elon Musk’s family doesn’t have a goldfish named after him. My husband praises the aerodynamics of the goldfish. “Like the Model S,” he says.

He is a sworn follower of the Tesla car internet forums via which aficionados exchange helpful information about the cars, how to operate their many and frequently updated applications, suggestions for vehicle improvements, videos and u-tubes showing the cars in action. During such forum watching, my hubby holds out his coffee cup or meal tray for my replenishing, his eyes glued to the computer screen. When I complained, he replied, “The model S has a cup-holder.” Small wonder I call myself, a “Tesla wife.”

He even put on a Russian video (circa November 2013) describing (for an hour) the Model S and its step by step operation– and he doesn’t know a word of Russian, which didn’t prevent him from translating it for my benefit (he knows the operating steps by heart.) I suggested he send his resume to the CIA. During the presentation, losing patience at being forced to watch it, I sneered something about “dialectical materialism,” – a comment he ignored. After the presentation was finished, he said, “it was hopelessly out of date—so many new applications were added afterward, but it was part of Tesla history.”

Speaking of Tesla history, the Tesla Motor company and its cars are named for Nicola Tesla (1856-1943), the brilliant, if at times idiosyncratic, inventor of many electrical devices and systems (including the AC induction motor used in Tesla cars). Sometimes he went overboard, as in his theoretical invention of the thought camera which would photograph thoughts (alas, he lived before Google could bankroll it); on the other hand, Tesla didn’t believe in telepathy. One Tesla forum poster (forum name: “ILOVEMYTESLA”) wrote: “Nicola is a Genius that it not getting as much recognition as Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Isaac Newton. Thanks to Elon Musk for finally making him a legend and taking his name to the level where he should have been in the first place!” This prompted a reply: “Well, of course he doesn’t get as much recognition as Einstein. He said the theory of relativity was wrong.” Musk probably factored in the theory of relativity in designing the Model S.

Some of the Tesla forum posters (identified by their forum names) are household words. I joke that “Red Sage” is in my bed and “PhillyGal” in his. Most forum users include “Tesla” as part of their forum names. “Tesla Tap” wrote, I must have gone through 100 ideas before finding ‘Tesla Tap’: “Almost anything you can think of had already been taken. The ‘Tap’ sort of connects with the ability to tap the Model S display screen.”

“Ohms Law” wrote, “I really wanted to use a reference to electromagnetic induction, but I thought Faradays’ Law was too obscure. Hence the more generic ‘Ohms Law’ which still applies to the underlying principles of a Tesla.”

“Amped Realtor”: “Mine was the result of a complete lack of creativity whatsoever.”

“Kleist”: “After the invention of the electrical storage . . . that is what Tesla is all about.” He added a description of Von Kleist and the Leyden jar (1745).

“Brass Guy”: “I first thought of Tuba Guy, but that’s too narrow so I had to widen the scope. I’m often using a French horn or trombone. I can get a lot of brass in the MS.”

“Nkwazi”: “Zulu name for the fish eagle found in southern Africa. I like birds and grew up over there.”

“Pettifoggeer”: “I’ve used the same name on other forii, and it’s sufficiently obscure not to be already in use. It refers to my (some would say) profession.”

“Cattledog” is a skillful versifier. Here are the first three     couplets of his “’Twas the Night before Xmas or Account of a Visit from St. Elon”:

‘Twas the night ‘for Xmas and all through the forum,
The posters were antsy, they’d thrown out decorum!

Their stocks had gone up at the end of last week,
In the hopes that St. Elon would send out a tweet.

The Res. Holders were settle all snug in their beds,
While visions of falcon wings danced in their heads.

To annotate: “stocks” refers to Tesla stocks (or perhaps metaphorically the hopes of would be Model X purchasers); “St. Elon” is Tesla CEO Elon Musk; “tweet” refers to the eagerly awaited notice that Model X will start production; “Res. Holders” refers to holders of orders for the Model X; “falcon wings” refers to the type of folding upwards doors on the Model X. Incidentally, the “X” in the “Xmas” short form for “Christmas” is, in my opinion, a (perhaps unconscious) tribute to the Model X.

When I wondered whether Elon Musk was a versifier, my husband, somewhat distracted lately (probably dreaming of the Model X), asked, “Our goldfish?” “No,” I corrected, “the CEO.”

Once, if I wanted my husband to come to bed for exercise and play, I would walk past the TV (in the pre-forum TV days) in my bra and panties. Last time I passed near his computer thus un-attired—he mumbled something about  my liability to catch cold and said something about a forum hope that the new Model x would have heated seats! I felt like      telling him to have self-intercourse with the damn seats!

I once half kiddingly (then) suggested I might seek a      divorce. His reply: “Elon Musk is divorced. His wife claimed he was a genius but spent all his time wrapped up in his car.” I shot back, “You have no excuse, you’re not a genius.” I’d like to see him Autopilot his life alone!

The odd thing is that he can’t afford a Model S or a Model X. “I’m saving my money for a Tesla Model 3,” he           announced recently. The model 3 is targeted for 2017 as an economy car for the masses (Read: us). “I’m saving my money for a divorce,” I replied. Or maybe I’ll sublimate my Tesla problem into a book. I will title it “The Tesla Syndrome.” At the university, I majored in English Literature, minored in Psychology. My MA paper was entitled, “Problems of Psychiatric Adjustment on the Part of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Caused by Hamletian  Dominance.”

I tell him that before he has a Model 3 – he may have a third wife. He was married briefly at a young age to his first wife. They separated, not because of a Tesla car – Elon Musk had not yet made his splash.

I am referring to the Elon Musk, the CEO, not the goldfish. []

First Published: CultureCult Magazine, Issue Two: November 2015