Sunday, June 6, 2021

Vital Viewing (Horseless Carriages Edition)

 


Now that the pandemic is finally (or allegedly) winding down, we may see many more of these contraptions out and about once again. As someone who had to use a car to commute to work all throughout this quasi-apocalyptic ordeal, I can tell you the number of automobiles on the road really did diminish significantly in March and April of 2020, the initial lockdown months. Not that I did, but I felt like I could drive in the wrong lane all the way to my place of employment and back without hitting another car, and  the most traffic I encountered at that time was in the lane that snakes around McDonald's. You know, the one where you have to stop, read a menu/sign, and talk into an intercom before picking up your food. It makes me wonder if this whole thing hasn't been a boon for the fast food industry. True, you weren't allowed inside, but those places do most of there business in the drive-thru, the dining room being more of an afterthought (I worked at a Mickey D's in my 20s, and the managers always referred to it as a "store" rather than a "restaurant".) Since the pandemic began, both a Burger King and a Starbucks have popped up around the corner from my home, and an Arby's is now under construction at the very end of my street. While fast food has always been a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine, and it's nice to have so many dining options so close by (it's not the most well-known burger chain in the world, but there's also a Culver's and their onion rings are to die for--especially if you already have a problem keeping your cholesterol down), I do worry that so many drive-thrus combined with the ending of the pandemic is going to increase traffic in my area exponentially, and there's going to be all kinds of cars getting in the way of my car on the trip to work. As a way of confronting my fears, I present to you these four automobile-related videos...



  Though it may have seemed that way to people living in 1901, cars don't run on magic. It's technology based on hard scientific principles that gets you to work each day. The kindly gentleman in our first video explains:


Well, did you conduct those experiments like the man asked you to?...Good, let's move on...what's that?...The fire marshal wants a word with you?...OK, now let's move--...You want to crash at my place?...No, I don't expect you sleep in a pile of ashes...So how long you want to stay?...Homeowner's insurance, I see...How would I know if those experiments violated your policy?...I don't have a sofa but if you put two easy chairs together...OK, now can we move on?...



Remember public service announcements like these? Remember Mothers Against Drunk Driving? Well, that organization still exists, and drunk driving is still a leading cause of highway-related deaths. Yet in recent years that concern has been superseded by...


 ...an entirely new fear, one that needs not involve a single drop of alcohol in the bloodstream:


My, how those suddenly-fogged up windshields took those Lexus drivers by surprise. But it should have come as no surprise to anyone who's ever driven a junker with a faulty thermostat. Been there, hit that.



 Global warming and/or the prospect of the world running out of oil has led to new calls for smaller automobiles. But just how small can you shrink a car? We can't all be Stuart Little. Maybe we don't have to. There's an enterprising dude in the Southwestern United States who's figured out how to make the compact car of the future by looking at the behemoth autos of the past:


I'd like that car. First let me clear off the top shelf in my closet.



The automobile continues to evolve. Though not necessarily fast enough for some folks. Now and then I hear people express disappointment that "the future", i.e., their adult lives, does not have the flying cars promised by the science-fiction of their childhoods (somehow airplanes and helicopters don't count.) I think the reason it hasn't happened, and probably won't happen, has less to do with technology than practicality: we live our lives on the ground. Take the mail truck, the kind that goes from mailbox to mailbox. Were one to fly, it would have to be like a dive bomber, going up and down, up and down. True, you could do like they did on The Jetsons and put an entire city up in the sky (including, paradoxically, the sidewalks), but that would take some of the novelty out of flying, don't you think? What's the thrill of soaring to great heights if you're already living those great heights in the first place? There'd be no place to go but down.


 However, there are some things about the present day-future that the producers of The Jetsons (and, for that matter, the original Star Trek) did not predict. The internet, for one. The aforementioned texting is another. And I keep reading about these driverless cars. Sounds like a great idea. Now you can drink, text, fall asleep at the wheel, have sex, and you don't have to worry because...

...the car will do the crashing into things for you.

Anyway, automobile innovation doesn't have to be as dramatic as all that. It could be something very simple, like a minor change in the dashboard, as this mainstay of the golden oldies concert circuit will soon discover:


Shows you how long I've been driving junkers. So a key's not needed to start a car anymore? Good thing it's Gary U.S. Bonds birthday today or else I wouldn't have known that.

15 comments:

  1. Without having much to say, I really enjoyed reading this post. I really would like a Flintstones car. And the Jetson's jetpack sounded great to me at the time. Now as a middle aged person, I just see traffic congestion being moved from ground level to to the skies.

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    1. Andrew, it's been a while since I watched The Flintstones, but if I remember correctly, Fred used to lift that stone car up around him, kind of run in place, then drop the car and let it roll. And since his house was never portrayed as being on the top of a hill, he did it without the added momentum that would have provided. It must have taken an enormous amount of strength on his part to do that, but then, he was a caveman. People may have been stronger back in those days, especially if they had the added advantage of being a cartoon character.

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    2. So Fred was a muscle dude. I never thought of him in that kind of way.

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  2. Hi, Kirk!

    Happy 82nd birthday to U.S. Bonds! Gary and his "Seven Day Weekend" (another innovation) were included in a blog series I ran in 2012. I enjoyed Gary's version of James Corden's Carpool Karaoke. His re-recording of "Quarter To Three" is easier on the ears than the original. On the original single, the mono sound was smashed to such an extent that its basically a wall of noise.

    I enjoyed learning all about cars, but am writing my comment from the hospital ER. I am undergoing treatment for singed eyebrows after attempting to replicate that mad scientist's vile experiments with gasoline.

    The "eyes wide shut" distracted driving experiment is a great idea. I hope it teaches those young whippersnappers a lesson. I can imagine them excitedly texting their friends about the shocking experience while driving home. Having your view of the road taken away for 4.6 seconds is indeed alarming. The problem with Mrs. Shady, aka Helen Wheels, is that, when she drives, she only looks at the highway a TOTAL of 4.6 seconds during an hour long trip. The rest of the time is spent texting, fooling around with Bluetooth, searching her purse for gum, filing her nails, reading novels, etc. And yes, when she drives, the car actually FLIES.

    I love that guy's collection of mini automobiles. I'm gonna pay a visit to his showroom with criminal intent. I'm thinking that cyan Merc would easily fit into the back pocket of my Levis and I could slip out the back, Jack, before he even noticed it was missing.

    Thanks for the fun report, good buddy Kirk, and have a great week ahead!

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    1. Shady, I just now listened to the original "Quarter to Three" and it sounds like someone smuggled a tape recorder in an overcoat to a Bonds concert, so, yes, I agree the remake was better, though if you hadn't pointed it out, I don't know if I would have thought that going by memory alone.

      Sounds like Mrs. Shady is good at multitasking.

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  3. Hello Kirk, Well I learned a several things today. First, now I know how so many pyromaniacs got their start. Second, maybe my next car won't be a Lexus-who knows if any of those windshields got into production models. To be fair to the test drivers, when you use a phone in a car (still definitely not recommended) you can look ahead to see if the road is clear for a few seconds before you look at the text. In the Lexus test, the window fogged up without any notice. Moreover, one presumably not answer the phone while driving an obstacle course. (Note that I do not have a smart phone, or any cell phone while in America, so I have never been guilty or even thought of texting and driving.) Third, Happy Birthday, Gary U.S. Bonds!
    --Jim

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    1. Jim, I agree that the Lexus test may not be the fairest or most accurate way of demonstrating the dangers of texting and driving, for the reasons you cited. Maybe what they should have done is put a cell phone in the car, let it ring or beep or whatever, and if the driver answered, THEN fog up the windshield. That may have better shattered the confidence of those who text and drive.

      I myself have a hard enough time sitting in my chair in my living room texting much less doing it while driving a car. Is it just me, or are is the keyboard on a smart phone kind on the SMALL side? I'm constantly hitting the wrong letters!

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    1. Debra, a flying car is worth having only if you're the only one in traffic that has one. You can rise above it then.

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  5. Not only do I remember Junior Science Films and that one in particular but I well remember that host! Creepy then and creepy now! Yeah, we've had push button cars for a while now. The one I have to practice on for my license is NOT. It's as low-end as it can be and it really annoys me.

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    1. Mitchell, that host is Dr. Strangelove minus the German accent.

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  6. Lots and lots of interesting stuff. Well, I'm off to do some experiments. Wish me luck.

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    1. Mike, don't forget the fire extinguisher.

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  7. One of the reasons I'm almost sorry to see the pandemic lockdowns go. It was quiet, heavenly, no crowds, and NO TRAFFIC! Like I said...lovely.

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    1. Also, Maddie, there was a significant decrease in air pollution.

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