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Monday, July 29, 2013

Lawlessness and Childhood by John von Daler

                 I've always liked cars. Even when I was four years old I stood up beside my mother as she drove our 1946 Buick. It was my job to listen for the tones in the motor and then with a little help from my perfect pitch to shift the gears at exactly the right time.

                There were no rules in the 1940's about where children should be placed in a car. The only safety precaution my mother took was to stretch out her right arm between me and the dashboard if she wanted to step on the brakes a little more abruptly than usual. Otherwise I could sit - or stand - just any old place.
                Not that my mother would have followed the rules if they had been there. She had an immense disrespect for authority. I've seen her take a ticket a policeman had just placed under our windshield wiper and tear it up in his face. The poor guy turned really red and went back to his car. I guess real men do not arrest 5 foot 2 women who are very, very angry. I wonder what his face would have looked like if he had seen me shifting gears?
                As a matter of fact, he might have died of apoplexy a few years later. We got a new Chrysler in 1957 when I was twelve. When we went to my violin lessons once a week, she let me drive the car from our house via the Oklahoma turnpike to my teacher's house. You might say I grew up with a natural relationship to cars. I loved the way that Chrysler did 0 to 60 mph in just a few seconds!
                We usually drove somewhere on our vacations. My sleeping spot on the long hauls would be on top of the axle on the back floor where the smell of gasoline came right through the floor and made you kind of woozy in a good way. Who knows what chemicals have engendered a great dream or two as I lay there.
                Now I live in Denmark. I would never have considered letting my children do any of the things I've just described. But I did take my son out to a lonely country road when he wanted to learn to drive. We drove around in that hiccuping vehicle until he got the gears right. Mild shades of the old lady I guess, may she rest in peace. Maybe when I reach the pearly gates I'll have to pay my fine and Mom's, just to be able to enter the great turnpike in the sky.

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