TRUE STORY:  Early 1950’s in the back seat of a yellow Mercury traveling over the Whitestone Bridge to Long Island, New York. I was staring down at the dark, murky water below. Oh boy, we were high up!!  In the middle of the bridge a sign caught my eye. My heart went into my throat!!  “Drive off bridge in case of emergency.”  Oh my God, I’m too young to die!!  “Stay on the bridge, stay on the bridge” I silently exhorted my father. We made it. But we had to go back over the bridge on the way home. I held my breadth and prayed. Trepidation stayed with me for years when facing the prospect of crossing a bridge.

No doubt you can relate … not to that particular trauma but to the many passenger experiences during your early ‘rides in cars’:  New vistas, exciting expectations, games of course. Must keep the ‘antsy kids’ entertained. I remember the contest to see who could hold their breadth while passing by a cemetery. And the joke “People are dying to get in there.”  Funny at the time. Your world included many hours being transported. Then you learned to drive; the FREEDOM. You could venture anywhere you liked. And SPEED. I took my mother’s ‘59 Chevy up to ‘100’ the first day I could legally drive. What troubles lay ahead:  tickets, sliding down icy roads, being caught ‘necking’ late at night. Nothing ‘stopped’ me though. My odyssey behind a wheel had begun. The automobile would become a vital part of my life. Buying them, washing them, repairing them. The time spent in and around autos is mind-boggling. Life without this 20th Century, motorized chariot is unimaginable. You agree? Do you depend on it almost daily? Is your journey through life determined to some degree by your ability to ‘travel’ the roads? Are your choices of destinations pretty much dependent upon your ‘wheels’ or those of others? Of course.

So what more can be said about this marvelous, mechanized wonder? Today’s ‘sexy’, well designed vehicle? It offers an array of ‘goodies’, options that make it a comfortable ‘home away from home’. Stereos, air conditioning, reclining seats. You needn’t ‘leave home without them’. And don’t overlook the ever-important storage space. Never know what you will need to transport. Maybe your hounds or your flea market finds. Oh so handy, your spacious, padded ‘buggy’. But … ah oh, here’s the but … you do have concerns that cannot be avoided when your life is so caught up in ‘auto dependency’. You certainly know what they are. First, of course, is safety. Always risky on the road; too many accidents. So you drive cautiously. You rely on seat belts and air bags. Smart. Second, cost. What you paid for you auto, petrol and maintenance … these can take a ‘big bite’ out of your ‘pocket book’. When you purchased a ‘car’ you tried to ‘stay within your means’. Or maybe not. Expenses can overwhelm you. But you need your vehicle; it is a vital part of your life; ‘it is you’.

This brings us to your third concern:  What your ‘drive’ says about you. Are you very practical? Do you buy based on reliability? Or is appearance, even a particular cachet, the determining factor? Does it represent you, reflect who you are? Fast and flashy? Wealthy but discerning? Carefree, even bohemian?

A quick aside:  During the ‘70’s I traveled to Europe and several Caribbean islands. I was surprised by their automobiles. They were smaller than those is the U.S.A. Many were customized. I marveled at the hand-made seat covers, the religious icons, the vast array of interior decorations. And wow! … the brightly colored ‘paint-jobs’ sported proudly on the islands. Very ‘free spirited’ … not relying on factory produced ‘images’. Rare to find this in America.

So how much does vanity determine what automobile you buy, or van, or SUV, RV? Lots of V’s, aren’t there? Do you decide on a whim? Or do you take pains to obtain something unique? Does a certain color or design appeal to you? Just remember that whatever you buy it is most certainly a clone like ’10,000’ others. You had nothing to do with its manufacture. You probably know little about its intricate ‘workings’. When someone complements you on your choice, you should say “thanks” but refer them to the appropriate ‘new car dealership’. Have them pass superlatives on to the ‘higher ups’. Tell them you want the designer and manufacturer to know how much the vehicle is appreciated. Well, you probably won’t do this but you get the idea. Keep in mind:  your vehicle is NOT YOU. It is the ‘brain-child’ of talented strangers. You just ‘happen’ to be driving it now.

A final concern, one that may not have occurred to you:  Alienation. What is that? Like beings from outer space? Slivering, creepy crawlers under the hood? No. Your alienation. Safe in your metal, mobile box; you giving the proverbial ‘finger’ to the rest of the world. Yep, it is you against ‘all of them out there’. And it is never so true as when you drive down the road ‘playing’ the ‘avoidance’, “I’m better than you” game. Sound familiar? Do you listen to your music? Talk incessantly on the phone? Malign the ‘crazies’ out there feeling secure in your private ‘transporting space’? Not very unusual but a habit that not only keeps you in a negative frame of mind but also convinces you that you are separate from a very ‘nasty’ world.

It is unfortunate that in this day and age we have abandoned civility and respect for strangers. Especially ‘on the road’. During the 19th Century you would tip your hat at a carriage going by. Maybe even stop to say “hello”. Do that today and WHAM!!  CRASH!!  “You crazy #%@*.”  So what can you do? You might try smiling at the aggression and puerile behavior of others. That will surprise them. Maybe wave. Maybe not … could be taken the wrong way. Your only recourse:  Constantly renew your efforts to be respectful, even caring. For everyone out there is ‘someone’s child’; you share their humanity. Sounds a bit lofty, yes. But you do not want to become another ‘jaded jerk-off’. Driving can do that to you. And, if it does, consider taking a bus or a train. Better yet, ride a bicycle. You see so many interesting things along the roadways. But watch out!!  That SUV is bearing down on you!!  Get out of the way!!



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