Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Only a few of us remember cars

A few generations ago there were people who remembered transportation exclusively on foot or by horse. 

Some of them witnessed the transition from horse to automobile. 

And right now lives a sub-population who will be able to tell their children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, about a time when the U.S. had an interstate highway system  modeled after the German autobahn. 

That was back in the age of automobiles.

Their kids will listen incredulously as parents tell them that everyone drove cars, machines run on internal combustion engines and fueled by gasoline. "What's gasoline?" a young one may ask.

You see, big companies that had a lot of influence over governments, pumped stuff called petroleum out of the ground. Petroleum is the fossilized remnants of ancient plants, and other stuff. The problem was that when you burn such fossil fuels to release the stored-up energy, one resulting exhaust gas is carbon dioxide.

Yeah, everyone knew that carbon dioxide was transparent to sunlight but opaque to re-radiated heat. Yes, that was discovered way before us old folk were born. Sure, people knew that fossil fuel emissions would change the climate, but the oil companies convinced the government to transport food and all manner of goods in big trucks on our version of the Autobahn, which Germany built before World War II to rapidly move military assets around the country.

 Other countries developed advanced rail systems.

You know, Henry Ford built the first mass produced car. Well, yeah, he and Hitler got a long fine. But that's another story.

 Driving cars was a ball! No, everyone was  on the highway at the same time, staying between painted lines. Yeah, that was it.  Yes, of course cars crashed into each other and people got horribly maimed or killed.

Hundreds of thousands of people every year. It wasn't just Volkswagens, there were many brands of cars made all over the planet.

We didn't know any better.

No, wait. We did. We just needed our space and independence. Yeah, that's all. The spirit of young individualist pioneers. Yeoman farmers. That kinda thing. I don't really remember.

Yes! One person to a car, usually. Using a steering wheel.  No computerized  radio control cables in the road, no. 

 People would drive around drunk and crash into other cars, and people would talk on cell phones and even try to text each other. It was insane.

After cities were redesigned into places people wanted to live in, not escape from, and work was only a few blocks away, that all changed.  That's why we live in Bridgeport, and it's so nice.  Old Bridgeport was pretty horrible. You wouldn't have liked it.

It took a while, but people got used to buses, and computer controlled vehicles programmed not to collide. And trains. And bicycles! You wouldn't believe how fat people used to be. 

Yeah, I think it's much better now.  There were a few decades where people were using fuel cells, wind mills, and other things to generate electricity, before the answer became so obvious. It's been like through out history. Once someone does it, it doesn't seem obvious anymore.

Okay. Time for bed. 

You know, I may have to get a new pair of legs. These are beginning to kill me.

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