QUIBBLES & BITS: OF AUTO- AND PLANET-FIDELITY
Two completely unrelated items to start your workweek
By Ed Goldman
AUTO FIDELITY—While most of us still won’t give up owning a car, our loyalty to particular brands is evaporating, according to a recent story in The Wall Street Journal.
“As more car makers roll out electric vehicles, they are discovering an important trait among early customers: They are far more apt to try new brands,” writes reporter Sean McLain.
🎶”Lord, I was born a Rambler man…”.
This would provide more than sticker shock for my late father’s generation (the “greatest one,” according to NBC’s mush-mouthed legend Tom Brokaw as well as to people who didn’t get the memo about the Renaissance, American Revolution and Neanderthals, the original “influencers” generally credited with inventing tools).
Anyway, consumers—mostly men, mostly American, in the 1950s through 1970s—tended to buy one particular brand of car and defiantly remain with it. But not my Dad. In the early 1960s, he bought a used 1961 AMC Rambler American, whose radiator was designed to overheat every 20 miles or whenever I borrowed the car to go on dates in high school.
Regardless, I kind of loved that two-toned crate (beige with overripe-tangerine detailing) because another feature it had was a reclining, single front seat. You’ll recall I borrowed the car to go on dates in high school.
Anyway, Pop got so fed up with the car that his next purchase, also used, was a 1967 Volkswagen. It was shutter-green and could have been a movie star if Walt Disney’s VW Herbie, the “love bug,” had a side-hustle as a forest ranger.
This car had a quirky design element—the trunk was in the front, the motor in the back—but also one unmissed, absent ingredient: a radiator. It would overheat only if one drove it through the Ring of Fire at Barnum & Bailey’s. Not even a common-nonsense high-school boy like me would do that. Not even if dared to by his date. Or so I like to think.
To be sure, my Dad had bought other cars before the Rambler and VW. One was a used 1951 Oldsmobile, also forest green, which featured an early version of GPS: a spherical compass mounted on the dashboard. This made us feel pretty space-age as a family.
The other one was a 1955 Milk-of-Magnesia-toned DeSoto Firedome, which had a Hemi V-8 engine and a speedometer indicating you could drive 100 miles per hour. Since this was before I was driving age, I had to keep asking my Dad when I was alone with him in the car if he’d just kind of “step on it and see what this baby can do.” He reminded me that “this baby” was in a parking lot at Sears and we wouldn’t be detouring through Le Mans on our way home.
I always wanted him to save that car for me but the Rambler and VW succeeded it. If I were a guy who resorted to cheap gags, I’d say that to this day I sometimes pound my forehead and lament, “I could have had a V-8!” Good thing I’m not that guy.
STARTING SMALL—I think many of us puff up a little when we do something small that’s part of a much larger effort—like when we put things out in our blue recycling bin every other week. And we walk back indoors thinking we’ve just saved the planet (“Won’t be long now, Honey. You’ll see. Everything’s gonna be all right”).
In 1969, when I was editor of the Long Beach City College Viking newspaper, I did two small things: (a) I gave a fiery noontime speech on the quad—attended by perhaps 20 people, at least four of whom were eating and talking— about why we shouldn’t be in Vietnam; and (b) I wrote an editorial arguing for the legalization of marijuana.
Well, my friends. It’s now 54 years later. You’ll observe we’re no longer fighting in Vietnam and that marijuana is legal in almost every state of the union.
You’re most welcome.