While stopping at the liquor store on my way home from work a couple of weeks ago, my three year old asked if he could stay in the car and continue listening to his beloved Laurie Berkner Band songs (not as intolerable as most children’s music!). I assured him that since I was leaving his little brother in the car, that yes, he was not only staying in the car too, but he was in charge of the both of them. Being deputized the boss must have made him feel pretty proud of himself because he gave me a great smile before I went off to fetch my 18 pack of Bud Light Lime.
Same scenario just a couple of days ago, but the store was Schnuck’s (and it was food I was after instead of beer, it’s not always beer, people!). Schnuck’s, for my non-midwestern, USA friends, is a large, local grocery chain, typical of Kroger’s or Albertson’s or whatever you have where you live. It’s the anchor store in a plaza having several smaller stores, so there are a lot of people coming and going . Whereas, in the liquor store, I can see my car at all times and I know exactly where to go to get what I’m after, the grocery store doesn’t provide that same comfort. There are no circumstances under which even I could imagine leaving the boys in the car while I ran into a place like Schnuck’s.
I don’t know where I draw the line at such decisions, I guess it’s just a feeling more than anything. I mean it only takes a second for somebody to snatch your kid, so it could realistically happen at the liquor store, even though I lock the doors. Can you imagine? Suddenly you’re on tv holding an 18 pack of beer trying to explain why you left your missing kids in the car to go into a liquor store in order to buy an effeminate beer product for yourself. You’re not going to make yourself sound good explaining your way out of that one.
As I thought about it (I think about this sort of stupid stuff a lot), it dawned on me that these tough decisions didn’t affect my parents when we were kids. There was no gray area as to when it was ok and not ok to leave the kids in the parked car; we were just left in the car ALL THE DAMN TIME! It was as though when our parents needed a break from us, they simply went to some store and left us kids in the car just to get away. These weren’t for three minute runs either. They left us while they went to do the shopping for the entire week’s worth of food.
I know we weren’t the only ones, because we used to see other cars filled with kids as well. Sometimes, when the kids became too restless, they were outside of the car, running after each other in the crowded parking lot. Large parking lots everywhere were ripe to devolve into Lord of the Rings circuses, but for the fact that the adults always returned…eventually, normally right before my brothers and I could muster the courage to pull the door handle to escape the Cutlass.
Nowadays, you almost can’t leave your kids in the car for any reason (other than to run into a suburban liquor store, of course). Fuck, if you want to have a conversation with a policeman, just leave your dog locked in a car for more than thirty seconds in almost any urban area and somebody will make the arrangement for you. This is especially true if it’s over 60 degrees outside. Try it!
I’m not really sure when society became so different (pussified?), but it got me to thinking about some other things that my kids probably won’t experience. The examples are certainly not exhaustive, or even the best of the best, but they’re what popped into my head first and this post is already longer than it needs to be.
Back in the day, while parents were escaping their kids, they could go ahead and smoke in the grocery store. Remember these things? Yeah,
that’s a cigarette ashtray right there in the shitter. They had them in all of the bathroom stalls for those who couldn’t wait the duration of their piss or shit to light up. Not just in grocery stores either, they were ubiquitous. Kmart, Venture, McDonald’s, airplanes…doesn’t it seem like it was another lifetime ago when people could pretty much smoke wherever they felt like it? It wasn’t that long ago!
Good Lord, Mrs. Sally Twopacksaday used to lean right over the heads of lettuce with a cigarette dangling from her lips, ash ready to fall right onto the produce, and nobody gave two shits. If someone lights up within 150 feet of a food store now, a minor panic is likely to ensue. Managers will be notified, 911 will be threatened; it’s crazy, and I don’t even smoke.
Speaking of healthy choices, it was only around 1981, while Ozzie Smith was still manning shortstop for the Cardinals, when the Surgeon General decided to share with everyone that drinking during pregnancy was probably bad for the fetus. WHAT?!! That’s appalling news to potential baby carrying women everywhere. I guess people had always figured that drinking gave us wicked headaches, and since the fetus wasn’t being carried in the brain, near the head pain, it must be ok to get hammered for two. It wasn’t the uterus that felt like shit after a night of drinking, right?
Fortunately for my mom, she was done child producing by this time and was unaffected by any potential guilt associated with having to decide whether or not to “just have a little bit of beer” or none at all during pregnancy. Her consumption was 100% guilt free.
They drank, got pregnant because they drank, continued to drink, had the baby and kept on drinking. There was no “well it’s ok to have four ounces of wine after your second trimester every now and then” bullshit. First of all, they didn’t drink wine, it was pregnant ladies, pinkies up, holding Busch Beer for this classy family. How we didn’t all come out of the uterus riding in the back of a short bus is a medical miracle by today’s standards (I’m aware that it’s debatable whether or not I’m retarded, but let’s move on). Somehow, I seem to be at least as capable as most people around me of forming complete sentences, and I generally don’t throw my own feces at strangers in response to conflict. Those are good signs, right?
Another drinking related no-no today is drinking and driving. You are almost more likely to do jail time because you had a few drinks after work and drove a car than you would if you bought a gun, put it into some stranger’s face and demanded his wallet. That’s sad, but it’s not completely untrue.
This was not always the case. I like to joke that I flunked my first driving test because after the instructor told me the test would take about 15 minutes, I cracked open a 40 ouncer and said “15 minutes? Then this should do it”. Remember 40 ouncers?? You can still get them outside of the City limits. I can rarely resist buying one when I see them for sale cold.
Anyway, she got all in a dither about my having beer in the car and I told her that I had never seen a car operated without the driver holding a beer between their legs. I honestly didn’t think a car would start without a beer resting in the crotch region of one’s lower body! Having a cold one at the ready was as necessary as putting gas in the tank of the car, as far as I knew.
It wasn’t whether or not to drink a cold one that adults in my life pondered while they drove me where I needed to go, but rather how many. The number was directly related to the time it’d take to travel from point A to point B. A trip to baseball practice at church was a simple one beer drive, but more complicated calculations had to be performed to figure out how many beers would last a person for longer, less familiar trips.
I assume drinking and driving was illegal back then, since even George Bush got a DUI in 1976. I’d have liked to have seen that encounter. I imagine you’d have to have been really really drunk and obnoxious to get a DUI in 1976. St. Louis is in the shadow of what was once a great American brewery, so it’s possible that beer related crimes were, uh, well they existed on the books anyway.
While being toted around town by semi-drunken adults, we also never sat in car seats or booster seats. What a racket this crap is. I think, technically, kids in Missouri up to 80 pounds or so are supposed to be in a car seat, and over 80 pounders still have to be in a booster seat. 80 pounds!!? Holy crap, I think I weighed 80 pounds in 7th grade! Good luck looking cool for the ladies in your booster seats male jr. high schoolers of America. No wonder fat kids are more popular than they used to be.
No, not only did we not ride in car seats, we rarely rode in the back seats, or in the seats at
all. The best location for truckers to see you trying to get their attention so they’d blow their horns was always safely nestled in the area right at the rear window on that back dash. It was normally where speakers played music from too, so that was a bonus as well. We traveled back there, probably blocking mom’s view of everything behind her for miles and miles of our childhoods.
Another favorite of ours was lawn darts. We used to have a lawn darts game that we’d break out from time to time. Lawn darts, for the too young to have ever gotten the chance to play with them crowd, were basically large, metal tipped darts with a handle on the opposite end for tossing. The target was a piece of shit plastic tube that connected into a circle that you placed on the ground.
Each player got three giant darts that you were supposed to throw towards the plastic circle target, sort of like an aerial shuffleboard game. It was much more fun, however, to just chuck them over houses or see who could throw them the farthest, especially blindly over mounds or trees towards other human beings.
None of us was ever impaled, and I doubt very much that had we been, that suing somebody for our own stupidity was ever going to be an option.
I also had a chemistry set as a kid that had actual chemicals and complicated instructions. I think the toy was meant to dissuade those kids who couldn’t figure it out from going into what is, no doubt, a difficult field. I personally couldn’t figure out any of the experiment instructions so I wound up throwing lighter fluid all over the box and all of its contents and just lighting it on fire all at once. There were some pretty wicked colors and a nasty stain that still exists on my old man’s concrete patio. The “toy” worked though, as I never once considered going into chemistry because I was clearly too stupid.
Today’s kits are called “Science Kits” and there is nothing dangerous inside any of them. They are meant to encourage kids, rather than discourage…even stupid kids, into believing that they can be a scientist someday. I doubt they’d burn like my old kit did, and they’re probably why, at least in part, most other countries have long passed us in scientific achievements.
One last thing that I just became aware had disappeared are high dives at my local, public pools. As a kid, I distinctly remember the thrill and danger of ascending slippery, wet ladder steps to get to the high dive platform. The jump was nothing compared to the climb! Apparently, there are no more high dives at the pools I frequented as a lad.