Perhaps you remember when America was great, during the golden age Donald Trump often talks about. There was ABC, NBC and CBS. There were Ford men and there were Chevy men. This was before Toyota, Honda, Bernie Madoff and online pornography. Life was simple.
My father was a Ford man. He’d been a Ford man all his life, and when he got rid of his old car after a decade of abuse, he donated it to me and got a tax deduction for assisting America’s teenagers. But before I could hit the open road, I had to pump hundreds of dollars into that Ford Fairlane.
It was a small price to pay to be a 16-year-old hotshot with his own car, even if it was a beat-up jalopy. I took what I could get. But times change. My kids never wanted the leftovers I was willing to give them. They wanted me to drive the jalopy and to buy new cars for them. (I was never smart enough to propose that to my father).
Anyway, one day he was at the Ford dealer’s shopping for a new van, and the salesman said, “I want to show you something.” He proceeded to push a button on the door and, voila, the windows opened like magic. The man beamed, he was proud of himself and proud of Ford. Detroit was making America great.
“Ever see anything like that?”
My father shrugged, rubbed the stubble on his chin and said, “Just another thing to break.”
The salesman was crestfallen, and I was so embarrassed I went into the men’s room to hide. What was wrong with my father? Why wasn’t he excited about the latest automotive innovation? Why couldn’t we have every new product that came along, just like our neighbors who owned a color TV, an electric can opener and an electric coffee percolator.
The salesman had to place a special order for a van without power windows, so my father could enjoy the privilege of rolling them up and down with a hand crank. (Come to think of it, we may have been the last family in America not to have power brakes. Just another thing to break.)
For my father, this great country of ours had too many new gadgets, too many gizmos, too many confusing innovations…and they were all breakable. He was a dinosaur, and sometimes I think I inherited that gene. New technology gives me anxiety. For example, my iPad recently malfunctioned and I lost five hours of work. I did a lot of swearing that day and proclaimed to heaven, “DAD! YOU WERE RIGHT!”
I also bought a new digital camera with so many features my brain was throbbing. To make matters worse, the print in the owner’s manual was so small I needed a magnifying glass to read it. Nowadays, people watch YouTube videos to learn how to operate their gadgets, but some geezers still like owner’s manuals … so why do they print the directions with 6-point type when they know we use reading glasses?
When I look around our home, I see many things destined to break — my iPhone, my iPad, my camera, my digital watch, my stereo and my Ninja coffee bar that requires a Ph.D. in engineering to operate, which is why it’s still in the box. For a change, I’d love to have some simple products that could be repaired instead of replaced.
Last week my wife went to look for a new car. I neglected my responsibility as a husband and stayed home because to me the car dealer is worse than the motor vehicles department. After three hours, she worked out a good deal and was pretty proud of herself.
“They wanted to sell me this feature that parks the car for you,” she said, “along with side-view mirrors that blink when there’s a car in your blind spot and a device that charges your mobile phone wirelessly … but I didn’t get any of them.”
“What are you talking about?” I said. “You hate to parallel park. You should have gotten that. And that blinking mirror sounds great for safety, and the phone charger —”
“Just something else to break,” she grumbled.
Had my father been reincarnated as my wife?
I’m convinced he was because my wife made the salesman search for another car to avoid all that newfangled stuff. The car’s coming Monday.
I just hope she got power windows.