Life Without Car Seats

I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that I’ve finally reached the point in my life where I can tell old fogie stories.  On the one hand, it horrifies me for the obvious reasons.  On the other hand, sometimes I really find these stories fascinating, even if everyone else arounds me rolls their eyes in dismay and/or disgust.  I guess that that’s the essence of old fogie-dom.  I should accept it gracefully.

At least I have not reached the age where I mis-pronounce the word robot.  My friend Andy claims that that is the ultimate in old age, when you pronounce it as robut (very similar to the diabeetus condition).

Be that as it may, one of the things that amuses me today is the obsession with child safety.  Parents today treat their children (until approximately the age of 25) as if they’re delicate new born chicks that must be handled with extreme safety at all times.

Take child seats in automobiles.  I have no problem with child seats.  I think that they’re a good idea.  Nowadays, if a child is seen riding in a car without a car seat, people consider it a form of child abuse.

Growing up in the 60’s, I remember being in cars that didn’t even have seat belts, let alone a child seat.  My mom tells stories that when I was a toddler, she’d let me stand up between her legs with my hands on the wheel while she drove.

For many years, we had a van.  It was a 1969 Ford Econoline van.  Looking back, it was an insane vehicle.  The only two seats in it were the driver and the passenger seat.  Usually my brother and I would lounge out in the back, with nary a restraint device of any type to be found.  The closest thing to a seat back there was the rear tire wheel wells.

If my dad (and it was my dad that would drive, it had a three on the tree stick shift that my mom never really did master in anything other than somewhat spastic lurching motions) suddenly stopped, my brother and I would go generally rolling around in the back.  All great fun!

Between the two seats up front was where the engine was.  Literally, between the two seats, was basically the hood.  You could pop it and work on the engine from within the car.  The hood itself was metal and, as the van drove, became incredibly hot.

Naturally enough, as any normal parents from the 60’s would think, this incredibly hot piece of metal under which the motor was running became their youngest child’s seat.  That is… me.

My mom made a little rectangular foam mat that was maybe 1/2 inch thick and placed it on the hood.  I sat on it. Yeah, there was nothing even approaching a seat belt.  Since the mat was made of a slick surface and it was on top of slippery metal, every time my dad made a quick stop, I’d slide off the hot engine and would head straight towards the windshield.

If it was a really quick stop, my dad would throw out an arm to stop my progress, which now that I’ve taken a couple of Physics courses (F = MV), again in hindsight, does not strike me as the ultimate state of the art approach in safety.  Looking back, if we ever got in an accident, I would gone shooting out the window like skeet.

Many times I received burns when my legs inadvertently touched the hot metal of the hood on which I was sitting. This was the seat that my parents, in their infinite wisdom, deemed to be my seat.  And this was the seat that, whenever I got into the van, I eagerly, much like a monkey, clambered to and awaited the adventure upon which I was about to embark.

And yet, here I am.  I somehow managed to survive.  Just like I’m sure that kids of today would survive, even if the parents of today loosened the reigns just a mite.

Long live the old fogie!!


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