Stolen Car is one of the more serene songs off the River (1980), but it’s quite heavy lyrically. It tells the story of a man who seems miserable and forlorn. He once had a little house with a little girl on the edge of town, but something has gone wrong and the relationship has failed. Seemingly desperate and lonely, he now drives around restlessly in a stolen car each night, hoping to get caught. If he doesn’t get caught (which he never does) his fear is that he will disappear.
And I’m driving a stolen car
On a pitch black night
And I’m telling myself I’m gonna be alright
But I ride by night and I travel in fear
That in this darkness I will disappear
That interpretation suggests that the “stolen car” is a metaphor for the isolation and loneliness he feels after his failed relationship. To be arrested would affirm his existence and give him some kind of value and purpose.
An alternate interpretation is that the “stolen car” is metaphor for a woman that the protagonist is having an affair with. The restlessness he has been feeling is the desire for her. He is doing something he knows is wrong and is waiting (hoping) to get caught, so that someone will put an end to it, implying he can’t stop it himself.
More than anything the music plays a huge part in this song. Springsteen’s rhythm guitar accompanied by Bittan’s piano very graphically visualise a dark ride with no return.
It is no secret that Bruce Springsteen loves cars, not only to drive and own but to write about. They are frequently used in his lyrics, mostly as his go-to metaphor for life. In fact, cars have been symbols of freedom and escape a long time and no wonder. They’ve taken us places where we couldn’t (wouldn’t) otherwise travel and they have brought us to our destinations faster, and we didn’t need to abide by a schedule or rely on anybody else to become mobile.
I think that’s why many of the people around me raised their eyebrows when I told them I was going to get rid of my car. To them it’s unthinkable to get by without one.
If you follow my blog you know that my living conditions have changed this passed six months. My decision to dump the car has very much been affected by my move to the city, where I quickly realised that the cost of having a car exceed the benefits. My shoulder injury has also aided me to my conclusion; being disabled from driving the last three months, made me realise I get on perfectly fine without a car. Actually, commuting by bus to work is both faster and cheaper.
Now, what is the best possible way for a middle aged woman, totally uninterested in cars, to sell her vehicle without being duped and swindled by some dodgy conman?
I chose a company that specialises in helping people like me to auction off their cars. The cost for their services is huge, of course (it seems like dodgy conmen come in all shapes and forms 🤨), but at least I wouldn’t have to end up negotiating the price of my car while some crook is pointing out real or made up defects.
To make a long story short, a coworker heard about my plans and offered to buy my car. At first I was very hesitant. What if he would start to haggle the price and what if we would end up fighting. I didn’t have to worry. I sold him my car, for the exact amount I was asking for, without having to give away a sixth of the profit and he bought a perfectly fine car from a person he trusts- a win-win situation.
I am now a car(e)-free person enjoying my healthier, more economical, non-polluting life. If I some day end up desperate, lonely and miserable, like the Springsteen character mentioned above, stealing a car might be my option too.