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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The captain

    When my father was alive he had a Chrysler New Yorker. My father was a guy that grew up in Brooklyn, it was apropos. I often wondered why it took so long for a car to be named after the Big Apple, but then after seeing all the traffic, I can understand the hesitation. In a big city you can catch a cab, more easily than drive the few blocks to the next destination. And do not get me started on the parking. However, a car called the Los Angeles, would be stupid and probably very green, given the amount of smog in LA.
    All digression aside, the New Yorker was a fine car, with all the bells and whistles afforded from its era. I believe it did not have leather seats, but fine velour. Complete with numerous cigarette burns. It even had a lighter and an abundance of ashtrays which also had lighters. Every smoker in the car could light up and smoke. Ashtrays in a car now are mainly a place to keep change. And fewer cars have lighters, but they have a plethora of lighter shaped “convenience outlets", because, heaven forbid that your cell phone is not charged so you cannot keep abreast of all the tweets and texts. Also, Sheila can give you her particular brand of misinformation even if you forgot to plug her in.
     The New Yorker also had the captain. Not the greatest captain in all of sports history, Steve Yzerman, nor the second greatest captain, Nick Lidstrom. The New Yorker’s captain was a computer voice that my mother gave the moniker of “The Captain.”
    The Captain kept track of all kinds of things that the average driver of such a car might not have forefront in their mind. For example, he would say “The door is ajar.” in his Max Headroomesque voice. ( ). Actually, it is not a jar, it is a door, my mother would remind The Captain, and soon anyone that rode in the car would as well.
     For the elite non-driver types (holders of Operator licenses as in the state of Michigan) of the world, this little voice probably helped them to navigate thru the often confusing world of operating a car. Or it was someone’s idea of what this voice could be. That someone had to think this was a good idea. I do not know who would agree that a computer voice command, ordering you around, would make the driving experience more enjoyable. I would suspect that is the same person that suffered from all kinds of other social inadequacies. (People even more nerdish than me….I know they are out there, just like the truth). Probably the same people that brought us Sheila. 
     Unlike Sheila, The Captain had no mute, so if you wanted to drown him out, you had to crank the stereo. However, the stereo was never balanced and faded correctly. In this car it was more like the “MONO” My father did not understand the intricacies of the burgeoning stereophonic era. The speakers were always left balanced and faded full rear. ("back and to the left") Basically one speaker of the four was usable to him. But then again, AM radio and talk shows did not need stereo. And The Captain had his own speaker, he did not TALK thru the “MONO”
     If your seat belt was not on The Captain, would insist that you, “Please, Fasten your seatbelt.” Yup, it was a car in command. It like to tell you what, where, when, and more what. When we were all in the car, my mother would then implore my father, “Ed, put on your seatbelt.” He would usually reply that a GD  car was not going to tell him what to do. Eventually he just left the seatbelt fastened and sat in front of it.
     The Captain would comment on the fuel range and say, “XX miles to empty” and “fuel is low.” That would mean that my father would have to take the car and put gas in the tank, because my mother did not have a clue as to how to fill up the tank. She had to learn after my father died, or find a full-serve gas station, which is even rarer than a cigarette lighter for lighting smokie treats in a newer car. Sometimes she would say to The Captain, that he could go fill up himself. But, she always seemed to answer back. I think that it was a game to her.
     I inherited The Captain, a few months after my father died. My mother did not like the memories attached to the car. I parked it in my side yard for a while. We drove it occasionally. Eventually, I traded it and some cash for a new electrical service in the house in Cedar. For some reason there were about ten sets of keys for this car, and it took me two trips to the new owners house to hand them off. I said goodbye to The Captain.
     The other day as I was leaving my car I thought about The Captain. My truck now has some bells that remind me that the lights are on. There is a different sound for keys in the ignition. I do not know which sound is which. I really do not care. Until I lock my keys in the car, then I may care a little more. Like at the Easttown Post Office. For some reason I ignored the bell that said the keys were in the ignition. I pushed the lock down manually, instead of hitting the button. Then I shut the door. And then I realized what that dinging meant. Uh-oh....The Captain would have sounded the alarm.
     I looked to the other door. Please be unlocked! Please! Please! Please! be unlocked. If it was not magic, it was something else. The door was unlocked. The Captain would not have let me get that close to catastrophic lockout. But alsa, The Captain is no more. Maybe it was the ghost of The Captain that kept me from simply hitting the catastophy button, as i do 99.99% of the time. If it was not The Captain, maybe it was the ghost of my father...

Just another day in paradise

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