One of the funnier questions prospective employers ask job applicants when they give them personality tests is: “If you were a car, what kind of car would you like to be?”

Most people take this kind of question very seriously. They assume that no employer is going to want them if they say they’d like to be an inexpensive Yugo. So they usually say they’d like to be a Mercedes, or maybe a Cadillac. We all like to give ourselves a little status whenever we can.

That’s why it was no surprise the other day when we learned that more than a few people have been showing up at the parts departments of their automobile dealerships and buying replacement emblems to put on their cars to make them look like more expensive models. For instance, for about $65 some Mercedes owners are buying the AMG emblem found on high-end Mercedes.

They put this symbol on their less expensive models to make them look more upscale. Whether this fools many people is debatable, but it infuriates some owners of the more expensive Mercedes who are now asking dealers to put a stop to it.

Certain people believe that buying high-priced products will bestow superiority on them. Others believe that buying fakes will do the same — give them status. Between groups of people there’s a big difference in what’s considered to be a status symbol.

For example, a high-end Glock handgun is considered to be a status symbol by many young criminals. Most of them can’t afford to buy a real Glock, so knockoffs of the high-end handgun are flooding the market. Even though many of the replicas can only be used to fire air pellets, staring down the barrel of one is terrifying and so the use of the imitation guns in crimes is up by more than 50 percent in many cities. Some young like-to-be toughs carry replicas of expensive handguns simply as a fashion accessory.

In the world of crime, just as in the world of cars, we have a cultural identity built on image, not substance. So much for the American myth of equality.

(Truman Taylor is an essayist and former television programming director and anchorman.)

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