Before very long people will no longer embark on a quest to get themselves that spiffy Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby that Tom Wolfe waxed lyrically about way back in 1965.
1965 was back in the day when I, a very youthful driver, thought the dream of a vehicular future had no limits. While I was still driving derelict beaters, I knew the time would shortly unfold when I could avail myself of a Wolfian dream car.
Yet today highways are congested beyond all reason; cities are polluted atmospherically, and defiled by roadways that never solve (and never will solve) the problems of ever-increasing traffic. Freeways are no longer free. If you’ve ever taken a drive on the Interstate 5 from Seattle through to Olympia you will know whereof I speak.
And the means of fueling our behemoths is becoming increasingly costly in that giant chess match of fossil-fuel blackmailing of nations and economies. And the stuff is running out, they tell us.
And now – and now – get this – young people are no longer flocking the second they turn 16 to avail themselves of the most coveted rite of passage from diapers to shaving, the driver’s license!
I read this recently and I thought, WTF? What is wrong with them? You have to get that license! It’s freedom, it’s abandoning the parental turf, it’s backseat bingo and watching submarine races in a ritualized sexual coming-of-age, it’s all that youthful exuberance should be.
Hey, young people in my day didn’t get killed or maimed in knife fights or via drug overdoses. They got shitfaced drunk and wiped themselves out in car wrecks. I can easily think of a half dozen from high school who went out that way. They were doing what society of the day expected them to do. Blessedly, some (most) of us were luckier and just a teeny bit more sensible than that, but now we are seeing the end results of driving and staying alive.
It’s all going south.
So, the truth is, the time-honored version of the ‘dream’ has become a dishonorable thing for many members of the youth brigade. License acquisition has dropped from around 95 percent a decade ago to about 83 percent and shows no sign of increasing. While vehicle sales are holding firm, said vehicles are not being bought by the young but by geezers and geezettes my age.
The reasons for the change vary. Certainly concern for the environment is prominent amongst their numbers, so they would rather ride those pesky bikes than get themselves a car (like a traditionalist would); they use public transit (how horrible; you have to ride with other people not necessarily of your choice as travel companions), and they find that driving (due to some sensible restrictions) doesn’t let them text with impunity.
So, they’d rather text and keep in touch that way. Well, by that process there isn’t going to be too much touching other than of the sort that good parochial school brothers tended to condemn as it led to depravity, insanity and blindness.
But, to be serious for a moment, I must confess that they may indeed be on to something. In all likelihood private vehicle ownership is on the way out for a lot of well-documented reasons.
Yet I’m rather glad that I won’t be around to see it happen.
*Note: The photos above show my cherished Nissan at brand-spanking new incarnation (I was a little newer, too); and my good old ’53 Chevy will a girlfriend of the day behind the wheel.
*Further Note: Please disregard the dorky fanny-pack. That was a few years ago.