Monday, April 15, 2024

A Peak Science Fiction Nerd Moment


It happened today as we were driving back from a short trip to northern Illinois to visit relatives old and new.  

My wife was in the car, on her Space Age phone, simultaneously FaceTiming with two younglings, one in a different state, one halfway around the world.  At that exact moment we were driving through one of Illinois' many wind farms: a widely spaced forest of bright, white windmills that tower 400 feet from their base to the apex of a blade at 12 o'clock.

To make this happen we had to pause the science fiction audiobook we had been listening to on our trip (Andy Weir's "Project Hail Mary", which is pretty terrific so far) because we weren't listening to the novel on via terrestrial radio or satellite radio, but via some science fiction dark magic that allowed my wife's phone to talk to the car's media center so that we could listen to the story of a man in a spacecraft traveling at .9-something of the speed of light, while we sailed down this smooth highway (Thanks, Biden!) at a constant speed slightly above the limit, knowing that the alert system on my phone would tell us of any speed traps ahead.  

At that moment I was transported back to the late 1970s, to our Volkswagen Fastback with Mom and my brother, driving down the same I-80 we had just left to take us back to Springfield.  That would have been summer -- she was a teacher, so we were all on summer break -- and ungodly early because Mom always had us up and on the road well before sunrise so that we could make camp before it got too hot outside.  

Our nav system was a paper map, which, unless we took side trips, we didn't really need since we knew the way.  Our entertainment was the License Plate Game, a magnetic chess board, a deck of cards,  AM/FM radio, and an 8-track tape player with played one of the four or five tapes Mom had on hand.  Not sure what listening to the cast album of "Cabaret"  and "Fiddler on the Roof" over and over had on my me and my brother, but I'm sure it had some.

The car was packed so tight with sleeping bags, tent, cooler, food, clothes and essential whatnots and dog bowls and doggie provisions, that my brother and I (and our very good dog) sort of wound ourselves into whatever space remained.  The first time we made this trip this way, the Coleman stove Mom had just bought just would not fit.  And we were excellent packers.  If we'd been in charge of packing the Apollo missions, I'm almost positive we could have found room to provision the astronautes with some extra bologna sandwiches, Hi-C, and a nice sheet cake.  But our little stove just would not go in...until we took it out of the box.  Just that little bit of space-saving allowed it to drop into the slot we had for it like a Tetris piece. 

Front seat co-piloting duties consisted of keeping Mom supplied with hard candies (Brach's Butterscotch) and coffee from the Girl Scout thermos (being careful not to drop it because it was glass lined.)  Mom drove with a tea towel draped over her left arm -- the sunward arm -- to avoid sunburn.  

We'd picnic off the road somewhere, use the toilets, walk the dog, stretch, and then power on.  Before sundown we'd be at some campsite -- usually a Jellystone -- get the tent up quick, fire up the little Coleman stove and make something for dinner.  Next morning, make breakfast, feed and walk the dog, strike camp.  Then back to the road and "Cabaret" or whatever was on local radio.  

And I was almost always packing a book.  Science fiction, no surprise.  Probably by Bradbury or Asimov.  I'd read in the back seat when my brother and I swapped the co-piloting duty.  And here I was, all these years later, older than my Mom was then, driving through a world that is now so casually upholstered with wonders (any one of which could have been its own Golden Age science fiction short story) that most people barely notice the miracles all around them.

I Am The Liberal Media


XtopherSD said...

Great story! And too true...

Steve in Manhattan said...

Back when you couldn't ask Siri for shit.

And you have had to fold yourself into that VW. I think they stretched the bug platform a few inches to make it - not enough.

CardinalJedi said...

Excellent, Mr Glass. We are living SF novels we read when we were children.

Neo Tuxedo said...

"The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed."
-- William Gibson

Ginny said...

Your mom and my mom had the same road trip mentality, except that we’d only go about 6 hours away, to visit relatives in Colorado. There was a lot of time to look at the rock outcrops and think about the dinosaurs buried in them. We always had a big thermos and a packed lunch and picnic snacks. No dodgy restaurant food for us, we were retro-pioneers!

Robt said...

I lived in California before I moved out of state with my employer. NAFYA and all.
I lived near the Altamont pass mountains and drove by wind turbines that went for miles and miles across the hills , They have been there for a long time. Providing power.

With cattle grazing beneath.

Alternative renewable clean energy is the future. No doubt.

Still, electric cars are great if you can afford one.

I am still waiting for the flying car George Jetson flew to work. It ran off soap bubbles (I think or at least it sounded like it) then once he reached his destination the flying car folded up into a brief case

We could have been there already if not for the republicans.
I think of our space satellite, Voyager that is out beyond our solar system and still operating. Sending messages back to Earth. The Mars Rover still powered. No gas stations out there. I mean for Voyager it has been powered for about 50 years ow.
Exxon, Mobile, OPCC need us to be dependent. The Buggy and whip companies of today learned and fight and bribe to hold that dependence on us.

The dumbest of them all is the GOPer who will tell us his personal religious belief says no abortions for any reason because, Pro life. Will tell us Thoughts and prayers after a 2nd Amendment mass shooting abortion in a school or very late term mass abortions at a Vegas outdoor concert.
They won't say thoughts and prayers to the pro lifers will they.
Just like all the word play where now GOPers use the term, I am not a scientist but (but they slept in a red roof hotel or something that made them just real smart). To no simple comment on environmental subjects but make illusive claims that can cause me to offer there parents , Thoughts and prayers.

T said...

Terrific story.