Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Good Old Days All Over Again

Today is not one of them, and neither were the last several. Just a couple weeks ago though there were several. It was like the 70s all over again for me. And the 80s for that matter.

The Good Old Days.

If you are wondering what I could possibly mean, what with gas prices breaking all kinds of records, the economy in the toilet and - put your favorite horror here - What could possibly remind me of the good old days? I've lost my mind? I hope not. (And you may be too young to remember the gas shortages and economic woes of the 80s. But I digress.)

In a very direct cause and effect way, those very high gas prices led me to rediscover some simple pleasures that I had long forgotten about.

Leisurely drives. With the windows down.

Yup, much of my memories center around the automobile. My dad was a mechanic for 40 years, and so father son time often involved cars. And in the warmer months, family time meant going for a drive - to cool off.

In the days before air conditioning was common place in cars and homes, one way to cool off was to go for a drive in the country in the evening. We did this often. I remember the sounds of the crickets and bull frogs along with the rush of the wind as we passed along fields, ponds, and farmsteads.

Later, when I was old enough to drive and have my own car, I remember hearing what was on other peoples radios at stop lights and sometimes their conversations. There were birds singing in the trees overhead and dogs barking at you from the curb. Occasionally a friend would shout you a greeting from the next lane or the sidewalk.

Traffic noises often dominated my commutes to school but it meant hearing the sweet unfiltered sounds of all manner of powerful engines. In those days you were cool if you could identify a car by it's revving engine. I still remember the sweet sound of the 12 cylinders of the Lamborghini Countach that once pulled up next to me at a stoplight. . .

Then there were the close calls. Where today you get a muffled horn blast, back then you could shake your fist, flip "the bird" an cuss out the driver who just made a boneheaded maneuver. All out your open window right into the other drivers equally open windows. It was expected.

I miss that.

Oh, and did I mention the smells? I think the smells are what really made the strongest memories for me. Of course there's the not so nice odors, like burning oil, hot exhaust, and the occasional skunk that didn't quite make it across the road last night. Oh, and Pig farms! But what I really enjoyed were the scents of Spring: Freshly mowed grass, trees bursting in flower, the coming rain.

So this spring, when it was pleasantly cool and dry on the way to work and back, I had the windows open most of the time.* Unexpectedly I found myself recalling all kinds of things I had forgotten I'd forgotten. If you know what I mean.

As kind of a side effect, I also started to drive without haste; coasting down hills and toward stopped traffic rather than barreling full tilt only to stop hard at the back end of a line of traffic. It was quieter. It was relaxing. It relieved some stress. It allowed me to more fully enjoy the simple pleasures that once were so common, but now were as if never before experienced.

Oh! It also gave me something to share with you!

*(Never on the freeway, the increased drag at those speeds hurts mileage more than running the AC's compressor. Besides, it's just too damn noisy . . . And I got 405+ miles out of a tank of gas - about 26MPG from a normal six cylinder car! Sweet!)