Sealing the bond - Joel Hall

I watch a lot of movies, and, like many movie-goers this past holiday season, I was captivated by James Cameron's sci-fi epic, "Avatar." The film, according to The Vancouver Sun, has officially become the highest-grossing movie ever, raking in more than $1.86 billion in world-wide ticket sales, as of the end of January.

Aside from the futuristic weaponry, giant bulldozers on steroids, and alien sex, the most fascinating thing to me about the movie was that bond between the Na'vi people and their manner of conveyance.

Whether it was a six-legged, panther beast, a giant, crazy-looking, pterodactyl monster, or an even bigger, crazier-looking, pterodactyl monster that the Na'vi chose to ride, a bond had to be made between the Na'vi and the animal. In the movie, the Na'vi attached nerve endings in their hair to the nerve endings of the animal, thus "sealing the bond," allowing the owner and the animal to move as one by feeling each others' pain.

At several points in "Avatar," the riders of beasts, and the beasts themselves, had to go through some kind of shared, traumatic experience before they could work together as a team.

After watching "Avatar," I realized that my experience with cars has been the same.

The first car I ever owned was a car I purchased in Japan while I was working there a few years back as a high school English teacher. After weeks of scouring the rural countryside for a car that wouldn't make my knees bang into my forehead, I found one in a city nearly 50 miles away.

With no prior experience driving on the left side of the road, or even owning a car, I timidly drove my new vehicle down the Japanese Interstate to my little, quiet village in the mountains, narrowly avoiding the median the entire way.

The second car to come into my possession was the car I received when I started working for the Clayton News Daily. People find it hard to believe that I survived as a reporter up until 2007 with only the help of public transit, borrowed vehicles, and pay phones (yes, those big, blue boxes outside gas stations). I couldn't bring back the Japanese car with me (the steering wheel's on the opposite side), so I had to actually find a new vehicle within a few days of starting my new job.

The search took me to South Carolina and back, where, along Interstate 85, I slowly got adjusted to the vehicle's yacht-like turning radius. Good times.

This weekend, I was blessed with a new car, but it required me to fly to Virginia and drive through the worst blizzard of the year in the course of a weekend, in order to retrieve it.

Leaving from Atlanta on a last-minute flight, I flew in just hours before one of the biggest storms to hit Virginia Beach, Va., in modern history. Forced to leave the city on Saturday, in order to make it to work on Monday, I drove my new car straight into the storm everyone was told not to drive in.

With most stores and gas stations closed due to the snow, no visible lanes, few cars on the road, and even more cars crumpled along guardrails and medians, the drive felt like a journey in a post-apocalyptic landscape.

Avoiding accident after accident, and staying overnight in an off-the-Interstate hotel, I eventually made it south, where the sleet and snow subsided. It was only by divine intervention that I, and the car, made it to Georgia soil in one piece.

While I may not be big and blue like the Na'vi, I now understand what they meant by "sealing the bond," and why it is so important. After that ordeal, I know my car appreciates me, and I will always appreciate it.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.