MANY people have strong feelings for their cars. The...

Salmagundi

April 07, 1995

MANY people have strong feelings for their cars. The direction those feelings take depends usually on how well the car runs.

When someone pays several thousand dollars for a mound of metal and plastic that does nothing but consume gas and leak motor oil, those strong feelings tend to be negative. People have been known to swear, kick and make crude gestures to their automobiles on the occasion of flat tires, failure to start and other common auto hazards.

On the other hand, there are some people who love their cars. Generally these are the people who have new cars, or rare cars, or cars that still start after you leave the lights on all day.

This second kind of person is easily recognizable. He or she buys things for the car, windshield wipers and wooden gearshift knobs, and hang colorful deodorizers from the rearview mirror. These are the people who spend their weekend mornings washing the car and look for specks of dirt every night. These are the people who hate winter because of road salt and summer because of the birds.

Yes, they're a little strange, but are these people who kill? Are these people who would fire into a group of teen-agers if they damaged their car?

No. Granted, the car-lover may use some harsh language. He might even chase the kids away with a baseball bat. But to kill a 13-year-old over a 1983 Chevrolet? No way.

When Nathaniel Hurt allegedly killed Vernon Lee Holmes Jr. there was more on his mind than the damage being done to his car. Stephen L. Miles, his lawyer, calls his reaction "urban fear syndrome." Was it? Does it even exist? Who knows.

One thing's for certain: Nathaniel Hurt has bigger problems now than worrying about whether the birds are using his car for target practice.

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