Sunday, January 9, 2011

Technology - Past and Present

This evening we decided to go to Chili's for dinner. I had won a major award (the hell you say!) at work consisting of a $25 gift card to any Chili's in the country. My wife selected one in the nearby village of Lee's Summit. I would have preferred the one on Rosecranz in San Diego, but, as she pointed out, that one is about 1,500 miles from here and I have to go to work in the morning.

My wife looked up the address on her laptop, wrote it down, and handed me the paper as we got in the car. I typed the location into my new GPS system. My GPS girl (I call her Gypsy) started telling me which way to go. Good grief! I think I know how to get out of my own neighborhood for Heaven's sake. Anyway, Gypsy gave us flawless directions, and we arrived at precisely the ETA the GPS showed when we left the house.

As we drove to the restaurant, and I listened to the directions, I realized that it's absolutely amazing how far we've come. I remembered the day my parents traded in our old beat up Nash for a brand new car—the first one we'd ever purchased.

My father was a plumber and a dyed-in-the-wool Ford man, so our new ride was, naturally, a Ford. It was a Fairlane 500. 1958 version. Blue. To a nine-year-old boy, that old Nash was a pretty cool car. But the Ford! Ah. Now that was something special. And, being brand, spanking new, it did have a few innovations that were state-of-the-art in the space age of automobile design and technology of the 50s.

One was the dual headlights. 1958 was the first year that the American automakers went from single to double headlights on each side of the grill. It was the new look. And pretty classy, too. The rear sported dual tail lights, which was a major change from the big, round, single version of the '57 Ford. The video on the right sidebar goes into more detail if you'd like to learn more.

The car had something else, too. It was an innovation that was one of the most amazing things that had ever been invented up to that time: windshield washers. I thought those were really swell, and a lot more impressive than the Sea Monkeys I had recently purchased. My dad also decided to opt for the AM radio and the heater, which were both optional features in 1958. Yes, indeed, life was good in 1950s suburbia.

But a week or so later, something strange happened. From out of nowhere and quite unexpectedly, our next door drove something new into his driveway. Something that looked similar to our car. Similar in that it was a Ford and it was a 1958 model. Unfortunately for our self esteem, that's where the similarity ended.

Compared to the Nash, our new Ford was a big step up. But compared to our new car, our neighbor's vehicle was absolutely spectacular.

First off, it was a coupe instead of a sedan. For those of you who are not car guys or gals, a coupe has two doors and a much sleeker look. And it's just cooler in every way. A sedan is the more sedate, stodgy, four door version.

In addition, the neighbor's car also had a two-tone paint job. While our car sported a paint job in the medium blue selection, the car next door was a red-over-white version—with the sweeping, gold metallic body moulding separating the two colors. Plus, theirs had this really cool continental kit on the back. And to top it all off, so to speak, it was a convertible! In the world of 1958 Fords, it doesn't get much cooler than that combination.

Bottom line: Their car pretty much kicked ours to the curb.

But sometimes victory is only a temporary thing. It can be fleeting and no more than a brief shining moment of glory. One moment you're in the catbird seat and the next you're just an average Joe. You can win a battle from time to time, but you can always lose the war in the end. Especially where cars are involved.

I think my dad realized he had been trumped. That may have been the reason he decided to trade our ugly duckling in the following year for a brand new, sleek and sexy, black 1959 Ford Fairlane 500 Galaxy!

I guess that showed 'em!

1 comment:

melodycolleen said...

Really fun article, Mike. Love the look of that red convertible! Bet it didn't have power steering, though, and turning one of those things is near impossible for me.