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Tag Archives: vehicle

The Original Social Media

Do you remember hand turn signals? The cars my parents owned when I was a child didn’t have turn signals, which had been introduced by Buick in 1939, eight years before I was born, but didn’t really make it onto most vehicles until much later. Also, my family was not wealthy, and their cars were usually at least 10 years old. I’m not certain, but I don’t think electric, flashing turn signals were required until sometime in the late fifties or early sixties.

Nowadays, all vehicles are required to have turn signals, but you’d be hard-pressed to know it based on how often people don’t use them. Let me say here that I’m well aware there are lots of circumstances when a turn signal is functionally unnecessary, but in the last few years I’ve noticed lots of people just don’t use them at all, regardless of the situation.

I like to think of these simple devices as one of our earlier forms of social media. A method for people inside their vehicles to (you’d think) effortlessly announce their intentions. “Hey! Check it out. I’m slowing down for no apparent reason, so I’m letting you know I plan on turning off this road very soon.”

Or “I see you sitting there at the bottom of that tee intersection, expecting me to continue along the road, so I’m letting you know I’m actually going to turn onto the street you’re on and you can pull out now instead of waiting for me to pass.”

This type of signalling is, it seems to me, a simple, easy-to-do form of showing respect for others on the road — kinda like a “golden rule.” Unfortunately, as our society seems to be slipping deeper and deeper into the abyss of unprincipled narcissism, led by our erstwhile POTUS, the sociopathy inherent in ignoring simple, respectful customs is increasing and serving to further coarsen our driving (and all other, it would seem) discourse.

I’ve been noticing this for over a decade, and I’m a bit ashamed to say it didn’t fully occur to me how representative such a seemingly small thing could be of the direction our nation was heading in. I had a blog for a while I called “The Cranky Curmudgeon” and I wrote mostly about things that were pissing me off, like people who leave their shopping carts adjacent to, or in the middle of parking spaces, rather than taking a moment to return them to a collection area; or those who decided they really didn’t want that frozen meal they put in their cart, so decided to just leave it on an unrefrigerated shelf in some random place of the market; or the driver going much slower than you changing into your lane when there’s nobody behind you.

I noticed these things and used my blog to complain about them. Mostly it was personally cathartic, but I don’t believe any of my writing has captured much attention. Nevertheless, I enjoyed doing it and it really was a good method for getting things off my chest. I just wish I had made the conceptual leap from the everyday degradation of common decency, to the complete lack of responsibility toward the “general welfare” so evident in our national political leadership, especially the Republican Party and conservatism in general. I’m not sure it would have changed anything for me, but it does feel — in retrospect — like I missed some rather startling clues.

At any rate, since I drive my youngest daughter to school, as well as pick her up, every day of the week, I see this behavior (or lack of what I consider to be appropriate and legal – activity) constantly. As I noted earlier, clearly there are time when using one’s turn signals is not really necessary, but I think getting out of the habit ends up with lots of people just neglecting to ever use them. It’s an epidemic of disrespect for one’s fellow drivers. So, please, get in the habit of using those damn turn signals. They’re a social signal as well . . . and wouldn’t it be nice if we could all respect each other a bit more than is currently done?

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Paying Homage to the Automobile

My 1967 Camaro

My 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS 396

So . . . blog posts should have substance, should they not? They should tackle thorny issues and momentous decisions; social policy and government actions that affect us all. I’m sorry to say this one just doesn’t fill the bill. There’s nothing momentous about it at all. In fact, part of it is a commercial for Chevrolet, though that isn’t the reason I’m including it here.

I was born in downtown Los Angeles and raised in the San Fernando Valley. As is true with many of us native Angelenos, I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the automobile. My very first car was a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air. It had a 3-speed manual transmission, and the previous owner had transitioned the shifter from the steering column to the floor. It was a dream car, but for one flaw. It was a four-door. Still, I was only 16 and it was truly something special.

I’ve only had one new car in my life. A 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS 396. Actually, if I remember correctly it was leased to the business my father had bought for me. I only owned the car for about six months, because I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my what at that point was a very short life working about 15 hours a day. The business was mine for about eight months. It was somewhat of a disaster as my father ended up having to sell it at a substantial loss. I didn’t realize just how much it mattered until, years later, I did a time-value of money calculation. I was an idiot. I chalk it up to youth, naiveté, and incredible stupidity. The Summer of Love may have had something to do with it as well, but that’s another story.

As the years went by I came to view automobiles primarily as conveyances to and from locations that were important to me. Creature comfort was nice, but much of it not absolutely necessary. I was in no way invested emotionally in my cars and, over the years I’ve had plenty of them. In my late twenties, when I was in Law School, I worked for a lawyer whose practice involved representing three of the largest car rental agencies in town. I drove everything from a Porsche 914 to a Mercedes 450 SL. They were fun, but I never once wished they were mine.

At any rate, this video was sent to me by an old friend from High School. We are only a few years away from our 50th reunion, so it’s been a long time . . . and some of us have stayed in touch. He, being an old man like me, still shares most everything via email (unlike me). I was moved by the story and, even though this is around a year old and is a commercial for Chevy, the story is moving and I thought I would share it. You might get a kick out of it. I did. The car sounds awesome.


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