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Friday, January 16, 2015

How technology made Baby Boomers lives so much easier.

If you're tired of reading everything that's serious and are looking for a break from the mundane, this little ditty is the answer. Still think modern technology has made your lives easier? I for one am of the opposite opinion. Travel back in time and find out or remember just how much fun it really was!

This work is for those of us who were guinea pigs for the technological gurus of the 70’s and 80’s. For you younger kids, you have no idea how challenging it was growing up in this exciting time. Technology was jumping in leaps and bounds with the advent and mass production of the accursed microchip. This device, so small, so innocuous, was about to invade our sensory receptacles like no other modern marvel to date.
 Someone, actually, a whole bunch of some bodies got the idea it would make our lives easier and much more convenient. I don’t know what they were smoking, but I’m here to tell you, it wasn’t the Mecca they proclaimed.
If you were on the financial receiving ends, I’m sure it was. But for those of us who were succumbed to test drive all the new gadgets and devices, well, it was safer riding a bike without a helmet and pads, drinking water out of a hose, climbing trees, jumping off the roof and egging the neighbor’s car. Seriously, it was.
Don’t believe me? Then sit back, pop a top and prepare for a history lesson they’ll never put in the high school curriculum. When you’ve finished reading this fine work, perhaps you might contact your school district and ask them why they don’t teach real history. I fear if the administrators are close to my age, they will soundly debunk the idea. Not many want to relive their traumatic childhoods. Wimps!
Enough of the preamble, let’s jump right into, shall we? We shall!

Dedication: To those of us who lived to tell the tale.

Chapter 1

Auto Industry:

Their version of a joke

As technology started marching forward or backwards as some of us believed, the Big Three auto makers thought it would be a neat idea if our cars talked to us, informing us of safety issues. Seriously? Hey, we went to Drivers Education. We were taught to look left, look right then look left again, before pulling into traffic.
It was drilled in our thick heads to always watch for the blind spot. That’s right. We were told to look for the blind spot. Wait, if it’s blind, how in the hell are we supposed to see it? Perhaps purchasing and training a Seeing Eye dog would do the trick? Wrong answer. Well, what if we cleaned the windows so spotless, birds would propel themselves into the glass thinking they were non-existent? Nope. Again, wrong answer. Well dammit. So what’s the resolution?
Our instructors were instrumental in assisting us with the problem. The blind spot is the piece of metal separating the driver’s door from the rear passenger door. That small space will hide an elephant if you aren’t looking. Now why would an elephant want to hide behind my door? I thought it was a valid question. Unfortunately my instructor didn’t concur. Well, hell.
 As time and the course marched forward, an eighteen wheeler tried to eat my driver’s door during a test drive under the watchful eye of my teacher I was finally convinced there really is a blind spot. I wonder if the Gremlin or Pacer had the same problem? You’re gonna have to look those up if you want to know the answer.
Let’s get back to the car talking, or in some cases, actually performing simple procedures any intelligent driver should be able to handle—seat belts.
Who remembers the Driver’s Education mock-ups we trained in? Yeah, they were pretty cool. Back then the operation was simple. Sit in the seat, grab the buckle with your right hand, the receiver in your left and place the buckle in the receiver. Whoolah! You’re buckled-up and ready to start the vehicle. I guess the automakers thought it was too difficult a task for the normal American to perform, so they decided, I’m sure, after countless, stimulating, board conversations, they should make the belts automatic. Why? “Because, it will make your life so much easier and convenient.”  Or so we were told.
My first encounter with this cool piece of technology was in my Dad’s Cadillac or Bellaire. I don’t remember which, but I do remember the incident.
“Jeffery, we’re out of milk. Go run to the store and pick-up a gallon.”
“Sure dad, no problem.” Or so I thought.
I entered the vehicle, closed the door, inserted the key in the ignition, turned the switch and “Oh, good God!” The car attacked me. If I would have remembered what I was taught, I would have realized the belt wasn’t normal. It sure the hell wasn’t like the one in my 1969, F-100. Oh no.
As electricity surged through the system, an unseen circuit opened, allowing juice to flow to a motor rigged to the seat belt rail above the driver’s door.  I don’t remember all the particulars on the engineering involved in the seat belt working, but what I do remember is how it nearly strangled me to death.
Imagine watching your life slowly, and I mean slowly, coming to an end. You see the belt hang in the air, for what seems an eternity, and then comes racing to your face and neck. You can’t duck under it and you can’t hide in the seat. Oh, no. The engineers made sure your ass was staying in the seat. The belt wrapped around your chest and shoulder, pinning you in the seat, with no path of foreseeable escape.  It’s the one time I wish I’d been born short.
I guess the gurus at Chevy didn’t take into account different body sizes or structures. With regular belts, we could adjust it to our desired comfort level. Not so with this fine contraption. You were stuck! I didn’t realize at the time that if you opened the door or turned off the engine, the vile monster would return to its designed location. No, I needed to go to the store and retrieve milk.
I pulled onto the road, arrived at the store, but wait. It wasn’t that easy. Try looking left, looking right, looking left again and trying to identify the damnable blind-spot with you head in a vise. Not happening. So, Chevy managed to eliminate everything I learned in one month, in one second. Do you see a problem with this? Think about it. The only thing I can do is look straight forward. I wonder if this is where the saying, “tunnel vision” surfaced. Perhaps I’ll research that at a later date.
The store of choice is less than a mile away. Hindsight says, “I should have walked.” I pulled out of the driveway with no mishap. Good to know an elephant wasn’t hiding. Drove up Lakewood and prepared to pull onto 51st. Usually, this isn’t a big deal. Look left—can’t. Look right—in a pig’s eye. Look left—fuck it. Not happening. So, with my eyes straining to the left and right, I’m sure they resembled an erratic tennis match, I ventured onto the road. Whew. Made it. Now, another left turn to the parking lot. Since I can see forward, I’m not too worried. Turned on the appropriate blinker, saw a break in traffic and turned….Ohhhh, Shit! There’s a car there. I cut the wheel to the right, pop the curb, scraped the muffler and came to a rather ungraceful stop in the grass. If I messed my pants, it wouldn’t matter. I’m still strapped in the seat.
Regaining my senses, I searched for a parking spot. There’s one right in front of me. Since I can only glance in the side and rear-view mirrors, I prayed the blind spot was free and gunned the accelerator. Man, that was close! Now, turn off the car and release myself from this prison. That went well.
Time to purchase a gallon of milk. Power off, seat belt re-tracks and I open the door. That went without a hitch as did buying the milk.
Usually, buying a gallon of milk is at best a two or three minute venture: find it, get in line, pay for it and leave. I know this simple process took at least ten to fifteen minutes as I attempted to regain my composure and prepare for the return trip home.
At the time, I didn’t think much about the perplexed looks and dismayed faces I noticed around me and in other lines. Or the couple huddling with fear at the exit doors, emanating a look of trepidation as they obviously didn’t want to exit the current confines of safety. In a few minutes, I too would share their fears.
I stared at the demon car. I’m not ready to climb into Chevy’s coffin, not just yet. Instead, I stand around waiting for a reprieve or divine intervention telling me, “It’s going to be alright.” Yeah, why don’t you come down and drive this home or better yet, send me a pair of used wings. Flying has got to be safer. Hmm. No response.
Instead of a good pair of used wings, I was greeted with the sound of real metal and squealing brakes. I looked over to 51st and noticed the majority of drivers were having the same exciting driving experience as I. Good to know I’m not the only one scared shitless.
Yeah, it’s quite a sight: teenagers, middle age and elderly, all, are enjoying the new addition to their cars. Driving bumper cars has nothing on this marvelous seat belt improvement.
I know I watched at least eight people enter the store with the same expression I must have displayed—fear. Where’s Franklin Roosevelt? Easy to say “there is nothing to fear, but fear itself.” He never drove one of these fine specimens.
I did overhear a few folks talking over picking up adult pampers. I wonder why? You’d think the whiff of methane permeating the air would have been a clue. Nope. I was more worried about driving home.
Okay, we’ve regained our senses, including smell. Time to tame the beast. I enter the car—check. Insert key—check. Lean over to close the door. Dammit. A pen fell out of my pocket. Not thinking, I turned the ignition key. Big mistake. With my head leaning out the door, the seat belt begins its march of death on my head. I’m trying to get the pen and the belt is jamming my head into my shoulder blades. This is not good. Instead of turning off the key, I stand my ground against the beast. It is a true battle of wills. I will win this. I will be victorious, I will be…..OH shit!
My body fought a good fight, but it was fruitless. A vertebrae in the neck collapsed, the muscles failed and I was slammed into the seat. My world went black.
Not sure how long I was out. Could have been a few seconds. Could have been half an hour. I honestly don’t’ remember. What I do recollect is this annoying sound bringing me back to reality: <bing> <bing> <bing> “A door is a jar.” <bing><bing><bing> “A door is a jar.”
What? A door is a jar? Who said that? <bing><bing><bing> “A door is a jar.” I look around, attempting to recognize the offender and tell them, “A door is not a fucking jar. A door is a door and a jar is a…<bing><bing><bing> “A door is aj…” I looked at the dashboard car and see the words, “a door is ajar,” scrolling across the read out. I understand the readout, but why in the hell is it talking to me and using incorrect English. For a few minutes I’m yelling at the console that “a door is not a jar,” but to no avail. The only plus, the voice reminded me of a Star Trek episode where Scotty of Star Fleet changed the voice responder for Kirk with a sultry female vixen’s pipes. Unlike my current dilemma, that was classic.
Coming to my senses, realizing I wasn’t going to win the argument with modern technology, I pulled the door closed and prepared for the drive home. No. I didn’t retrieve my prized pen. Dammit!
The drive home wasn’t near as harrowing as the drive to the store. When I entered the house, Dad asked me what I thought of the car and why it took so long for me to run a simple errand. I could only respond, “Dad, a door is not a jar.”
He looked up. “Say what, Jeffery?”
“A door is not a jar, Dad.” 

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