This, to most people, is a fold-down arm rest.
(Original photo stolen from these guys)
In the cars of my childhood there were always two arm rests which folded down independently, and which we called The Two Things. When The Two Things were folded down together they formed a nifty little platform from which to launch small children through the windshield, or, more commonly, a comfy place for my little brother to ride. This was in 1971 and there was no seat belt for a passenger of The Two Things.
(I was sure I'd told you this story before, but maybe not.)
My brother Mantel Man, the one who grew up to climb Mt. Whitney and hike the Himalayas, the very same brother who had a career as a Navy bombardier/navigator pulling Gs in a plane that sometimes flew upside down -- THAT Mantel Man -- was prone to carsickness as a little fellow.
I know. But wait, it gets better.
The only way he kept his nausea at bay on long car trips was by watching the road from the front seat, between my two parents, one of whom was smoking a cigar.* There rode Little Mantel Man, perched on The Two Things, watching the road, breathing cigar smoke and trying not to barf.
Only it was the motion sickness that tended to make Little Mantel Man green, and not the cigar smoke. I sat in the back seat mostly unaffected by the curvy mountain roads of the Coast Range or the Sierras, but green around the gills from the White Owls or Tiparillos that Dad smoked only on car trips.
(Photo stolen from these guys)
Not Little Mantel Man. He liked the noxious smoke.
Yes he did.
And he pestered our dad to let him have a puff. Dad, of course, said NO, because Little Mantel Man? He was only FOUR on the day this story took place. NO you may not have a puff. NO you may not have your own cigar. NO.
Until . . .
Oh, all right, Fella, this should put a stop to this nonsense! Here.
And Dad handed his stogie to Little Mantel Man.
Who liked it, of course.
And continued to puff on this stogie as we cruised along, Mom becoming more and more agitated with the backfired lesson as the minutes dragged on and Little Mantel Man smoked that stogie. And smoked it and smoked it.
And cars passed and stared at us. Stared at the skinny 4-year-old with the so-large head, enthroned on The Two Things like a little prince and puffing away at a White Owl cigar stub. Did they even notice the woozy 5-year-old secondhand smoke victim in the back seat? Doubtful.
The thing that put an end to this disastrous attempt to outsmart a child -- the last straw for Mom -- was the car whose passengers glared fiercely at us as they passed.
In 1969 some of the passing cars might have given my parents a thumbs up for bucking The Man and letting their kid smoke out.
In 1979 those people would have flipped my parents off.
In 1989 they would have used their huge car phones to call the police to report child abuse.
In 1999 they might have taken a shot at us in a fit of drive-by road rage
. . . but in 2009 they'd be on their iPhones to CNN and YouTube with video footage.
My how the world has changed.
Please don't let your 4-year-olds smoke cigars. And if you do, just make sure you're the fastest car on the road so no one can pass you and glare at you. Thank you for your time. This has been a public service message from Foolery.
*Hint: not Mom.