When We Didn’t Drive Devices

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It has been more than 20 years since the day after which Americans got used to being handled like felonious cattle at airports. Stand here, don’t go there. Off with your shoes. Open your purse. Spread your legs. Those born after that day have no memory of what it was like to just get on a plane – sometimes, at the last minute – and fly to your destination without having to do more than show a boarding pass to the stewardess – as opposed to the “flight attendant” – at the gate.

Well, a day may come when people no longer remember what it was like to drive a car – as opposed to a device.

A car was a machine, first of all. It had a thing called an engine – and these were often radically different, car to car. But all of them were the same in that they burned liquid energy stored in a tank.

One of the really neat things about this liquid energy was its portability and stability. You transferred about 15-20 gallons of this liquid – they called it “gasoline” and “diesel” – into the car’s tank, which only took a few minutes to do and the car was ready to drive for hundreds of miles.

Unlike the way things are now, you didn’t have to wait all the time in order to get going. So you could just go – pretty much anywhere and whenever you felt like it. Almost like flying was, a long time ago – when it was possible to catch a flight, the saying went, on the spur of the moment and without having to show up at the airport an hour or two before the scheduled departure time and wait for the flight.

Because you could just go – by car, in those days – you never had to plan. Life had a spontaneity you may never fully appreciate. If you just felt like driving somewhere, you could – no matter how much gas or diesel you didn’t have in the tank. Even if there was almost none. We were able to do this because there were gas stations – where diesel was also usually available – all over and almost always within range. It was only a small hassle if you ran out of gas on the way t the station because it was possible to carry a small can or plastic jug of liquid fuel from the station to wherever you left the car and pour it into the tank and then drive to the station, where the tank could be filled in about five minutes or even less.

We were never reluctant to run the heater or defroster in our cars at full blast on cold days because it didn’t have any effect on how far we could go before we had to stop. These engines cars used to have produced heat without cost, in terms of range. Also, the distance your car could go in winter, when it was very cold outside, was just the same as it was when it wasn’t cold outside.

The engine might be harder to start on a cold day (it was necessary to “turn it over,” using a small electric motor that was powered by a battery, which – like the ones that power our devices – wasn’t as powerful in the cold). But once started, the engine would run as long as you gave it gas or diesel and while it ran it was also making its own electricity, which was fed back into the small battery that provided the engine’s start-up power.

One could literally drive all the way across the country without stopping – except once every several hundred miles or so for gas or diesel – and to pee and maybe grab some coffee and a snack. It was kind of like air travel was when there was an airplane called Concorde that could fly across the ocean in about half the time it took other airplanes to make the same journey.

Another thing about these cars people used to have was that you could just park them anywhere and not think about it at all. Whenever you returned, they’d be ready to go as far as they were ready to go when you parked them, even if that was a month ago. The liquid fuel you had put in earlier – or last month – did not lose energy while the vehicle was parked. It was not necessary to keep it plugged in so as to make sure it could still go whenever you got back to it.

They also lasted a really long time – sometimes more than 30 years. It was pretty common for people to keep the same car for twelve years and then they would sell it to someone else, who would drive it for many more years. This was part of the reason why, in those days, most people – even people without much money, like teenagers and college kids – usually had their own car and were able to just go places, whenever they pleased. Just as it was, once, when people could just fly – whenever they pleased.

Of course all of that is history now. “Terrorism” and “climate change” changed the past into our present. We’re “safer” now, of course. But it feels as though we’ve lost something along the way.

At least, if you are old enough to remember how it used to feel.

. . .

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49 COMMENTS

  1. […] When We Didn’t Drive DevicesIt has been more than 20 years since the day after which Americans got used to being handled like felonious cattle at airports. Stand here, don’t go there. Off with your shoes. Open your purse. Spread your legs. Those born after that day have no memory of what it was like to just get on a plane – sometimes, at the last minute – and fly to your destination without having to do more than show a boarding pass to the stewardess – as opposed to the “flight attendant” – at the gate. […]

  2. Eric, I know this sounds funny, but I find a lot of satisfaction in working on, and using, riding mowers. I have a big yard, and always have at least two riding mowers in working order (I always buy used ones). I can do practically all the work on them myself, whereas with newer cars, I can only do certain things, but have to take it to someone else to do a lot of the work that needs to get done.

    They’re kind of like a 1960s or earlier car. They certainly don’t feel like modern appliance-like vehicles to me

    • I should add, I keep the old mowers (the ones that aren’t currently working), mostly for parts, but also in case the riding mower future becomes like that of modern cars, in which I will have my own private Cuba on my property

    • I hear you, Dood. Even my old, semi-retired, WRX, I could not even change the headlight! And this new, 2021 Camry? Forget it. With myold cars, I could work on them, and have a better understanding of how they worked, save a bit of money. And, when I had to take them to the dealership for repairs, was less likely to get ripped off. These newer ones have electrical everything, and it drives me nuts. Never mind the “saaaaaftety” stuff I never wanted (and I can just hear Eric’s voice-bwa ha ha). I hope this is the last new vehicle I have to buy, because the thought of a new one with a breathalyzer and a kill switch is enough to make me never buy another new one again.

      • Shadow, I generally don’t get extended warranty/service/PM plans, but I did on the new Corolla. Like our ground-source heat pump, it’s such a complex machine that I thought it might be worth it. Like you, I wanted to get something new before they start mandating the really really bad stuff – or outlaw even the sale of hybrids.

        On a related note, in Florida, a Republican senator has introduced legislation to require anybody who refuses to take a breathalyzer test to install – wait for it – breathalyzers in their vehicles.

        https://tinyurl.com/6zf7nemr

        “Law enforcement officials strongly back the measure.”

  3. Eric, funny you should post this article now. Tuesday morning I picked up our newest device, a 2023 Corolla Hybrid AWD. We have spent the past couple of days running the battery down in the garage trying to figure out – Quick Reference Guide in hand – what all the little icons on the instrument panel mean.
    We traded our then-newest vehicle, a 2015 Focus with the notorious dual-clutch PowerShift tranny. The extended warranty that Ford gave on those because of performance and reliability issues had run out, and every time it shuddered we had visions of big repair bills.
    Not long ago we would have been part of the eco-crowd with the hybrid. But now the cool kids will think us carbon-spewing MAGA hillbillies. Fine with me.
    Many of the issues you have been writing about for years are glaringly apparent, like the no-sidewall tires on gigantic “rims,” the horrible visibility owing to fat pillars to house 114 airbags (Focus had those too), and the never-ending subscription fees you have to pay for some of the “premium” features.
    The good news is that if you don’t feel like screwing with the bells and whistles, you can turn most of them off and just drive it like a normal car. The first to go for me was the Lane Departure Alert. At one point on the way home it wanted me to follow the seams in the pavement rather than the lane stripes. Those two do not always coincide, and apparently it has trouble telling the difference. When I’m driving off-center or even over the line (as at the apex of a corner on a two-lane country road), it’s because that’s what I intended to do. Keeping the car on the road is my job, thank you very much.
    The intermittent starting and stopping of the engine is a little creepy, but if you weren’t watching the tach you’d never know it was happening. Very smooth.
    This might be the last new car we ever buy. We have a beater ’09 Focus and my 1995 Dodge-Cummins pickup, but we wanted a nice “Sunday car” too.

  4. I definitely think the forced evs are going to be the most difficult for people who previou9sy drove gas cars. Ie all of us. And as for safety, evs wont increase that. There will be many stranded cars on the side of the road in a few years. One of the more ironic aspects of driving older cars was the fact that as many were driven by young people starting out, and they were probably the least safe cars on the road and yet, as a young person driving one of these back in the day, I never had a feeling of being unsafe. Even when my old car made ominous sounds, and stalled on the side of the road in a bad neighborhood, people immediately stopped to help. When as a college student before cell phones, my car got a flat on the freeway, a guy pulled over within seconds and put the spare on. It was literally no big deal. I was a few minutes late to class and we all laughed anout it and I got the flat repaired the next day. Who would do like that these days??? My husbands tire was slashed at the Oakland airport when he got into a road rage incident in the parking lot, nut same thing we got stranded in the neighborhood in Oakland, late at night, knocked on someone’s door and the man who lived there came out in his bathrobe, opened his trunk and loaned us a jack. We all just kind of expected that behaviour in those days and would do the same in return, so the entire world seemed relatively safe. Unlike today.

  5. I love this website. I hope all of you send Eric a few bucks so he can feed the chickens. I suggest a minimum amount of $200.00 per year and as much more as you like. It is expensive running a business like EP Auto’s I am mystified as to how Eric get’s EV’s to talk about. Eric present’s them fairly, but always the charge time, the weight, the waste. They really suck for any real world use. Can’t imagine what contractor’s will do. Other than what they have to do. Say FU.

      • Thanks, guys!

        I feel the same about all of you, too. I often get educated (and get ideas for new articles) in the course of talking with the people here. One of the thing’s I’m most proud of is the comments this site generates – and the people who generate them.

    • Thanks, Ugg!

      I try hard to avoid pitching for money as the work matters most to me. I’d die – emotionally – if I had to write fluff pieces in exchange for Top Dollar. No amount of money is worth your soul. I am grateful almost beyond words that people such as yourself and many others here help me do my thing without risk of losing my soul!

  6. We recently went on a cruise. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting the TSA treatment, but I expected wrong!

    They relieved me of my pocket knife (I always carry one), but more egregiously is they took all of my vegetables!

    They iterated continuously “no open food containers”, so when I asked about the fresh vegetables (never ask about anything) I was bringing aboard to keep my diet somewhat clean, the girl flipped out. She acted like I had a bag of grenades! She ORDERED me to dispose of my broccoli, cauliflower, radishes and the like AT ONCE! Fresh vegetables are difficult to obtain in any restaurant environment, damnit! It’s not like there’s a grocery store on board.

    Furthermore, I had a couple of pocket knives, scissors and other assorted implements of destruction in my check-on baggage. They brought it right to my room, arriving at the same place as what I had carried on. It all makes NO sense, and shouldn’t, even if you’re one of the safety obsessed retards who cheerlead this sort of balderdash.

    • Well BaDnOn. My response would have been FU and give me my money back. I being a weird person would have to be dragged kicking and screaming (fortunately my wife agrees) to board a cruise ship. You give up all control. You are a meatsack. You are stuck. All I could do in such a situation is drink. Not good.

      • Hey Ugg,

        Part of my impetus was to have new and exciting experiences, but truly, much of the idea belonged to my significant other and her mom. While you give up much control, there is plenty to do aboard the ship, so I wouldn’t say I was a meatsack.

        That said, I did my fair share of drinking. Even had a bunch of drinks with a Russian-American, who confirmed some of the things many of us have heard regarding the war in the Ukraine, such as, there ARE actual Nazis in the Ukrainian regime, etc. At least, that’s what he said, being originally born there, and knowing people over the years on both sides…

        Anyway, it was a week of being fed and relaxing, with a little bit of adventure and spectacle.

        Negatives: Things were very expensive on the ship, especially booze, so bring your own in your checked baggage.
        They’ll confiscate any bottles of hard liquor you buy on shore, supposedly to give you on the last day of the voyage. They did this with a bottle of tequila I bought, and then “accidentally smashed it” later, compensating me with a bottle of inferior ship tequila. Some bullshit.
        Make sure it’s a not a “family” cruise, unless you’re bringing your kids. Mine turned out to be. Most a pity.
        Mexico has its charms, but I think I understand why those people want to flee here. If you want to visit a foreign country with a beach, go to California.
        That said, we can learn something from Mexico. It didn’t appear any of its problems came from the ability to purchase any prescription drug you’d want over-the-counter. They didn’t appear to have a fentanyl problem. There weren’t little straws and pieces of tin foil everywhere…

        Enough for now. Bedtime. 🙂

      • Hi Ugg,

        I’ve told Dawn I will go on a cruise… if am put into a medically induced coma (like Bruce Willis in Fifth Element) and wake me up when it’s over…

        • I was anti cruising after a disaster of a three day Bahamas cruise, thought we were on a more adult oriented cruise line boy was that a mistake – Animal House on the water. Our lucky break was dinner seating with a Korean business guy and family, he leaned over to me “thank you so much for being our dinner mates” then rolled his eyes over to the next table with the out of control trash.
          “Daylight come and I wanna go home”

          We rolled a winner on a last minute decision to escape wildfire smoke, a 7 day Alaska cruise on Norwegian on a brand new boat- we had a blast! No animals, great sights, great food, it changed my mind but boy you have to research to avoid a disaster.

  7. Hey Eric, I’m curious what you consider your ideal era for cars?

    I love old cars made from metal, wood and leather, with no plastics that degrade after a few years, but in terms of getting in and going, they were a lot less convenient than modern fuel injected cars which start every time, without any kind of fiddling, and don’t stink up the air. If I had the means to start a car factory, I would build a car whose interior has no visible plastics, so that it lasts a long time, but it’d have a modern EFI powertrain, with port injection and no turbos. Such a car could last several generations and be clean and efficient. We built such engines in the early 2000’s and we built such car interiors before the 1970’s.

    One of my favorite cars, built in 2002 with a 3.5L naturally aspirated V6 and manual transmission is still going strong 21 years later, however, all the interior plastic is becoming dust.

  8. We live in a three tier world. First tier is us. We have to accept whatever gruel they’re serving, and thank them for the privilege. Second tier is the anonymous wealthy. They enjoy netjets and can pay to cover their tracks when necessary. In fact you might not even know that they’re well off, except for a tell like nice shoes or a Rolex. Third tier is the celebrity wealthy. They have just as hard a time traveling as us, but only because of those of us who make them out to be gods. They can’t travel outside of their sheltered bubble, but at least they get comfortable seats.

    There might be a fourth class I’ll call the reparationals. Not sure how they fall into the scheme. For sure they are playthings of the celebrity wealthy, but from a safe distance. They don’t fly or drive (not counting carjacking), but don’t seem all that interested in travel either.

  9. Yep: From where I live, I’m driving anywhere from Maine to Georgia. By the time I drive to the airport, (that’s one hour) get there 2+ hours before my flight, fly one leg for an hour, have a 1+ hr layover, then fly the 2nd leg for an hour, then wait for my bag, then get ground transportation, that’s at least 8 hrs! And then certain airlines always connect in out of the way places. Betcha any Delta flight from NY to Chicago connects thru Atlanta! Betcha any American flight from Chicago to NY connects thru Charlotte! Sheesh.

  10. ‘you never had to plan. Life had a spontaneity you may never fully appreciate.’ — eric

    But sometimes, unexpectedly, you do.

    Last weekend, while clearing a fallen tree with a Silky saw, I was visited by a trail angel, in the form of a lithe woman on a mountain bike with a golden retriever running behind her.

    We connected instantly. The next day we hiked a canyon, hung out on the deck, dined at a pizza joint and spilled our souls to each other till they closed the place down.

    T is a true nomad, an earth goddess living with her dog in a cargo van she built out herself, and sleeping under the stars. Now she’s hundreds of miles away in the Sonoran Desert.

    Hers is a deeply spontaneous life that the alien slugs and saurians who rule us would take away from her with total indifference.

  11. “Whenever you returned, they’d be ready to go as far as they were ready to go when you parked them, even if that was a month ago.”

    Usually true. Unless the starter battery died in the mean time. Of course that was a fairly easy, affordable fix.

  12. “But it feels as though we’ve lost something along the way.”

    Now that Amerika is a rabid police state, overbearing government, taxes galore, wars all the time, we can look back and see that the 1950’s and 1960’s was a golden moment in time, because now the destroyers are in control, and they want feudalism. We celebrate those glory days with classic car shows.

    https://www.medievalchronicles.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Feudalism-The-Feudal-Pyramid.png

    Kings Nobles Knights Peasants becomes El Presidente, Congress, Military, Peasants.

    • We’re a hopelessly manipulated society. A complete communist just won mayor in Chicago by – surprise! – the mail in count after Vallas was winning by 12000 votes. There is no nation anymore. I understand southern Russia is quite nice with mild winter temperatures.

  13. Along the way from now to the “then” referenced by Eric in today’s piece.

    New cars have become luxury items.

    https://thehill.com/business/3934301-new-cars-have-become-luxury-items/

    From link:

    Not surprisingly, many consumers are holding onto their cars. The average age of U.S. cars will hit 12.3 years in 2023 by one projection — an all-time high. It’s not a bad time to be an auto mechanic.

    Industry analysts wonder, though, how long all of those aging vehicles can hold out.
    “I do think there’s going to be a reckoning for this country at some point,” Chesbrough said. “We’re just not going to have enough personal transportation available.”

    Surprisingly, the drop-off in customers hasn’t hurt automakers, at least not yet.
    “We actually sold more than 3 million fewer vehicles in 2022 than in 2019,” Chesbrough said. “But revenue was $15 billion higher, because the prices were so much higher.”

    —-

    It’s almost like some kind of plan…

    • Unfortunately boycotting stupid company policies like building all electric cars becomes irrelevant when the company gets bailed out . Im not saying it shouldn’t be done regardless through.

    • You can do a hell of a lot of work on an old car for about half the price of a new one, as long as the structure is reasonably sound. New engine and transmission included. Of course you will have to finance it yourself.

      • Machines have a life span. You see the pattern, though, right? First a new car is a “luxury” item. Watch for that to refer to any car soon. These people know it, too.

        From link:

        “I do think there’s going to be a reckoning for this country at some point,” Chesbrough said. “We’re just not going to have enough personal transportation available.”

        ——-
        Unless you have a really good insider connection to a honest mechanic/shop, the time and inclination to deal with it, and more money than you think you’re gonna need, replacing engines and transmissions is a pipe dream. Especially now. Last year, I had a 20 year old SUV crap out on me 5 different ways all at once. Fortunately, it was in my driveway. The thing was dead. Couldn’t give it away and had to pay to have it towed away and junked.

        I was lucky I bought a ‘14 van in ‘18 for peanuts and had a backup. At the time I stupidly kept the 15 year old SUV when I bought it because I was insulted the dealer only offered me $1500 on a trade. Sunk cost fallacy writ large. The last 5 years cost me $5500 in repairs and months of down time. I will never keep a vehicle beyond 15 years again.

      • Hi John,
        That’s where I find myself at this point in time. My ‘01 Corolla only has 75k miles on it and runs like the proverbial Swiss watch; problem is I’m losing the battle of rust on the frame and suspension. Being 75 myself I want to keep it going until I’m no longer able to drive, but it’s going to be tough.

    • My old WRX is going on 17 years old. Has 235,000 miles on it, and replaced the original clutch at 219. Although I have a new car (1 year old already), I hold onto the old WRX, because with the way things are going, it will make a good back-up vehicle. “New” is not always better, and although I think I came out okay with this new car, I pray it is the last one I will ever have to buy for a good long while.

  14. Your article sure brought back some ghosts for me, the good kind.

    It was a slow progression, like the frog in the pot that got us where we are now, especially in regards air travel. 911 just sped up the inevitable. I’m not that old, yet still remember walking out onto the tarmac and climbing the stairs to board the plane. Half the people I see on planes today wouldn’t make it up those stairs even if there was a dozen doughnuts waiting for them.

    I know you don’t travel by plane anymore Eric, and I don’t blame you. Not that many cool places left on earth still worth seeing, or ones that don’t require you to kneel at the alter of medical tyranny. Planes like cars, now have no thought of the human customer. They might as well be cattle cars headed for Treblinka. Every time you exit its like a wondrous relief you made it alive and in one piece. Its gotten so bad, I recently began only flying if its a non-stop flight, and if I can get a seat in 1st class. And 1st class is no great shakes anymore. It is reminiscent of how coach used to be.

    I remember jumping on a plane at the last minute, and paying with cash. What a terrorist I used to be. As for the fondling, leg spreading, and taking off of my boots…Easy to avoid with pre-check. I know most would say its unthinkable to give them an extra 150$ every 3 years, but making ones life easier, is one of the primary purposes of money. I walk to the front of the line, never take off my boots or empty my pockets, simply pass through a metal detector, not the back splatter radiation machines I see everyone else going through. I almost hesitate to mention it, because once more people start to do it, they’ll shut it down as they always do, or it will lose the advantage. At that point I will fly less, but fly private. Until they make that untenable.

    • I have a trick that I use to avoid the back splatter machines that doesn’t involve spending money to get my freedom back, but I am thinking it is such as hassle I might. Save for one thing. Pilots are vaxed. More than 3 known close calls at the airports this year makes me thing twice. The odds are still low, but are increasing for the first time in 50 years.

      Flying today sucks all the way through. But, thanks for the handy household tip.

      • Good point about the vexed pilots. It’s still hard to believe they got 75% of white people to take that shit shot.

    • I just flat out refuse to travel by plane anymore. It’s such a PITA and just not worth the hassle. As I get older, I’ve realized the happiest place for me is home.

      OT: the oil cartel reduced production to squeeze American & Euroweenie consumers again. Gas locally went up a dime overnight. That may/may not of happened under Trump as we were energy (oil) independent. Then the potato was installed as el presidente. Guessing the national average will be $4+ by the end of the month.

      • Hi Mike,

        I can’t travel by (commercial) airplane anymore. The last time I did, after my Dad died, I came this close to ripping out someone’s larynx. I am usually an extremely easygoing guy, but dealing with those blue suited low-rent Cheka types is something I cannot abide, like Face Diapers. So I stay away, for my own good.

        • I fly occasionally. When I do I try to use it an an opportunity exercise my public opposition and to accomplish a couple of ends. It’s thickens my skin to the tyranny and helps me build my resistive strength. It (hopefully) causes the TSA thugs to question what they are doing (perhaps if only when they honestly think to themselves). And, it becomes a public display of resistance for others to learn from. My hope is that the resistance will show to others that saying no and resisting is perfectly legit and doable.

          My TSA training was immensely helpful to me when the BS “pandemic” was unleashed against us. I could see the con a mile away and telling the Walmart employee to fuck off when he demanded that I wear a mask became almost enjoyable.

          As I’ve said before on this site; it’s very important to exercise your “FUCK YOU” muscle. Otherwise, it atrophies and you find you start going along to get along.

        • I haven’t gotten on a plane since the TSA was created. There would be no point in me trying. If one of the goons touched me somewhere I didn’t like, I would end up in jail instead of on an airplane headed where I wanted to go. Probably cost me a divorce, when my wife’s dad died and I refused to fly with her. I offered to drive, and see her in a couple of days, but that wasn’t good enough. So, come to find out, she wasn’t good enough.

          • Amen, John –

            Of a piece with the “masking” business. I was already divorced by the time that latter came around, but had I not been, I expect I would have been as I would not (and did not) “mask” and absolutely never will.

            • Speaking of masking, I was under some stress, going blind from cataracts and not wanting to wear a mask to get in the door to get them removed. Come to find out, even most of the local medical facilities no longer require them. So I don’t have to go blind to keep from wearing one. I need to get out more.

        • lol. I know. I hate flying and have a visceral contempt for the whole industry. Like the car companies, they sold their customers out.

      • Haven’t flown since 2009 due to the TSA clown show.
        Corralled, yelled at, and treated like we were inside a prison.
        All because we had committed the crime of buying plane tickets.

      • Oh to be well off enough for private jet travel! Grandson is learning to fly, so I went to the flight center with him today. First, what a slice of normalcy. Quiet, clean, everyone professional but friendly. Even the fuel truck driver looked sharp. “Can I go out with him to watch him preflight?” “Sure!” Wow, treated like a responsible adult instead of a would be criminal, shocked I was.

        Now the jet part. Two couples and one grandma show up, the two guys are discussing recent patients/eye surgery so docs with bucks, no kids. Again, nice folks casual dress. Small jet lands, parks about 80 feet from the terminal. Family strolls out, bags get loaded off they go in less than 10 minutes. Why would anyone with money ever fly steerage? No TSA, no riff raff, no OPK disease (Other People’s Kids). BAJit? NetJet? Yeh baby!

  15. My Mustang GT 5.0 (stick 🙂 ) has been on the road for 31 years without any major repairs other than the air conditioner. How can an EV possibly compete with that for sustainable and eco-friendly?

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