There are few childhood things I lament the loss of more than the freedom to move around in the car. I grew up in the 70s when vans were all the rage. And these weren’t the vans like we have today–all captains chairs and entertainment systems–no, these vans had two captain’s chairs up front, perhaps one more row of them in the middle and then usually some kind of open area in the back.
I remember our custom shag-wagon like it was yesterday! It was a Chevy of course, and it was shaped much like the Scooby Doo mobile, except it had a beautiful ocean motif painted on the side. The whole van was done in blues and each side displayed an airbrushed image of a sailboat on a stormy sea. On the inside, there were two rows of captain’s chairs and then in the back was a raised shagging-platform–perfect for extracurricular activities–that was carpeted of course, where we kids used to sit and play games, read books and generally move around during trips. There was also a built-in cooler for drinks, but I remember that it never seemed to work right. As the times marched inexorably on, the vans became more refined–the back area giving away to a third bench row–but the general ability to move around unseen by prying eyes remained. The windows were darkened and had shutters or drapes on them and you could literally walk from the front to the back to grab a drink from the cooler, or just stretch your legs if dad refused to make a pit stop so he could “make up some time.”
What do kids do today on trips? They remain tightly fastened in their little car seats, safely protected from errant drivers and from generally being able to do anything else but stare out the windows and whine about being strapped into their seats. If they drop something…tough doo-doo because they’re so strapped in that they can’t bend over in to the floorboard to pick it up. Want to take a nap? Oh, I’m sorry–you’ll have to just lay your head over to the side and pray that you don’t get a crick in your neck from the odd motion.
Oh I know that car seats save lives and all, but crikey! When you’re doing 70mph (ok, maybe 80) on a lonely bit of highway in the middle of nowhere Georgia or Alabama, is there any harm in letting the little boogers waller around a bit? I say no!
What cracks me up though, is that now vehicles are going to need to get 35 MPG by 2016, which means cars will be what…smaller right? It’s probably a good time to invest in companies that make roof-top carriers for cars! I swear whoever it is running the bunch that develops these safety standards has obviously never taken a long trip with kids!