Geri-Antics: Modern technology, part III

Published 1:30 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2023

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By Anne Carmichael


Boomers have been guilted for decades over the reckless abandon with which we raised our children. We lovingly carried our newborn babies out of the hospital, swaddled them in our arms, and rode home sans infant car seats or even a seatbelt.

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We allowed our infants and toddlers to sit in our laps while riding in the car, or we put them into car seats that were of little more use than a cardboard box with holes cut where the legs were supposed to go.

While I never had one in any of my vehicles, there were automobiles manufactured with an optional infant bassinet that would allow even tiny babies or active toddlers to sleep in the rear window of the vehicle or [gasp] on the dashboard.

Once the children outgrew these inane precursors to federally approved car seats (with safety guidelines and eventually laws to protect children from their unwitting parents), they were allocated to roam the backseat at will.

Since seatbelts were not installed in U.S. automobiles until 1968, (the first mandates for their use didn’t come until 1984), our precious cargo was allowed to run back and forth across the seat, jump onto the floorboard, climb into the front, lick the windows and make strange faces at passing drivers….not to mention covering the driver’s eyes with their tiny hands in an attempt at instigating a game of peek-a-boo.

Not to cast aspersions on the parenting skills of others, I admit that my children at the fragile ages of two and five years, alternated sleeping in the backseat and the rear window round trip from Lexington to Orlando, Flordia. If that made you shudder, you’d best sit down while we discuss drive-in movies.

As I stated, most cars in the 1950s and 1960s had bench seats in the front (before bucket seats and consoles were in vogue). There was a bit of stability in that nice solid seat, or so we rationalized.

Boomers thought of our cars and trucks as far more than a mere mode of transportation. We put every spare penny into pimping our ride so we could show them off while cruising the local hangout or racing at the drag strip.

The interior decor was given as much attention as we gave to the decor of our first homes, for they served as our dens for entertaining dates and hosting parties at the drive-in on Saturday night.

It stood to reason that we would want to share our good memories with our children when they came along, so we gave them a place of honor on the roof where they could watch cartoons and movies while relaxing on a quilt with a cooler full of snacks and sodas. There’s some symmetry to locating them there since many of those children were conceived in the car at the drive-in. Not to mention the 39,000+ babies born yearly in their parent’s vehicle.

Auto clubs have long provided their members with roadside service, insurance, and the all-important TripTik, which was a spiral-bound roadmap from your starting point to your destination. The map boasted highlighted customized information for the traveler, such as where to find restrooms, gas stations, and motels. They even alerted the driver to the location of speed traps and road construction.

Occasionally, TripTik would omit a detour or be uninformed about a police checkpoint. Still, for the most part, if your co-pilot (traveling companion) paid attention to the TripTik, you were well-informed and could plan your trips almost down to the minute. Now, we have GPS and the annoying voice of some bimbo named Siri.

GPS (Global Positioning System) was originally invented for NASA to track satellites in space. I guess it stands to reason that one must be a rocket scientist to understand some of Siri’s directions. NOTE: The name of the person voicing your GPS directions is actually Karen. Just saying.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be told what to do. I especially don’t want a robot that thinks it knows it all to tell me what to do and where to drive. I may not know the area, but I know when I’m sitting at a dead end, there’s no “turn right,” and how annoying is it when Siri detects that I have not followed her instructions (because to do so would cause a “Thelma and Louise” moment and send me careening over a cliff). She repeats her orders over and over ad nauseam. I would be afraid that she would metaphorically drive me over the edge someday and that I’d end up destroying the dashboard of my car to find and eliminate her.

In summary, automobile technology has come a long way towards protecting us and those we love. Still, it would behoove manufacturers to bring back a few features from the Boomer’s heyday.

Mr. Ford, Louis Chevrolet, how about bringing back the roll and pleated leather bench seats instead of bucket seats and consoles?

Maybe put the gear shift back on the column, so if we have to climb out the passenger side door, we don’t create a new orifice in our body?

And if you want to install an eight-track player, a lot of us still have our suitcases full of tapes on the floorboard.