An innocuous object - or is it?

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MB Swiger

What is the impetus for a child to lick a car? Would the serum levels of lead have built up so slowly that he would not have felt any change in his behaviour or his mentation? Would he have felt poorly but said little or nothing to his parents, who may have put his symptoms down to generalised childhood aches and pains or misbehaviour? Might they have wondered if they had a child who may have been categorised as 'slow'?

The diagnostician asks why and for what reason, and often finds herself frustrated when there are no answers. Examination of the car reveals little as it is inanimate; even resorting to anthropomorphism in a considerable way would have one note that any secrets the car has it will keep to itself. None the less the car is interesting in and of itself, not only as a period piece when viewed in the 21st century but as something that when in its heyday would have to have had a specific appeal which may have made the child wish to taste it.

Taste. Very few of us will have licked sufficient paint (or indeed any paint) to suggest that it is a tasty product, one which results in a cry of 'delicious!' when licked. An adult's taste buds may be worn (if you will), but a child might delight in a flavour that others may find bitter, sour or unpleasant. Was taste important to the child, so much so that he would have continued licking the paint, or was it simply a habit he formed?

Children may not be considered as a population who will have formed habits, but something will have driven (sic) this boy to lick the car. Can a child's behaviour with the car be considered as parallel with an adult selecting a cigarette or piece of chocolate in times of stress?

What about the child himself? One would very much like to know the outcome of the time of his ownership of the car, but the information is lacking, so an explanation of pathology is almost impossible to achieve. One can speculate, but selecting the differential remains a mystery.

And so, is a toy car simply a toy car? Is it better - if this matter can be qualified - to look at objects and information (the case notes) at face value, or should one ask questions? Is it a success or failure to examine, ask questions and perhaps find no firm answers but have addressed the matter in an inquisitive way?

I suspect that positing this to one hundred people will provide nearly one hundred different answers. There are those who view life as the thin veneer of what is seen on the surface, and they may show little curiosity about what is beyond the immediate. And others look at a situation or an object and wonder what, how and why. For those who want to know more - who see the surface as a starting point - the car is an invitation to continue the drive for knowledge.