What I saw

During the eight months I spent three hours a day in the car, I had some recurrent thoughts and observations:

1. My driving got a lot smoother and more instinctive. I was noticing this just today, when I switched lanes just as I arrived at a stoplight where a number of cars were waiting, timed the start from green and inserted myself back in the moving stream, all without thinking or touching the brakes. On balance I don’t think my driving is safer, because I’m timing things much more exactly and without margins of safety, but I do it a lot.

2. The sheer number of large SUVs in suburban areas is staggering. I would count the percentages around me from time to time, and it was often over 50 percent. Young people, with whom I worked, were driving new ones, presumably they, or their parents were making payments. Massive, clumsy, vision-blocking—my most immediate beef with them—and God knows what their mileage is. Their tires make a groaning noise when they’re at speed. These are the used cars of the immediate future, particularly if gas prices really do jump. They’ll be just like the big sedans of the sixties were in the early seventies: unwanted, poor people’s cars. Eventually they may have a certain cache, and can seem cool in retrospect, but not at first.

How would I try to adapt them, were I for some reason able to get one of these with my budget, and not something more sensible? The situation that also obtained in the early thirties, as described in Steinbeck’s essay Jalopies I Cursed and Loved, where he couldn’t get a Ford or Chevy, but could get a 16-cylinder Marmon with an aluminum engine, getting about 5 miles per gallon? I think I would right away take the pushrods out for four of the cylinders, converting an eight into a four. This would leave the valves shut for those cylinders, and the compression would cause the closed cylinders to absorb the piston strokes and deliver it back on the down stroke, acting like so many springs. Eventually smaller and thinner wheels, in the meantime high tire pressures. Strip as much weight as possible. All of this is conventional thinking, if a little unusual now. I wonder if it’ll become necessary?

I’ll return to the subject of how I spent my time later, but for now I feel as if I’m awaking from a zombie state. Long hours, portal to portal, and getting up at 5:30 meant I was continually sleep-deprived.

2 Responses to “What I saw”

  1. mcmc Says:

    You could fill up the back with batteries and have an electric car.

  2. idontpay Says:

    They’re selling SUV hybrids now, so that might be one of the things the future used market contains.

    My speculation concerns what can be done w/ little or no resources, except skill & knowledge which might be shared.

    Joked with my wife that I should write a monograph titled “Cars of the Artists”

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