Lifejackets and Car Seats. Safety First!?
I’m all about safety. Especially since getting older brings a whole lot of paranoia about getting hurt. There’s a helmet for every activity now. I wonder if some of those blue-haired ladies actually have steel belts woven into their bouffants as added protection. Given the fact those coifs could sustain gale force winds and not move, I think I could be right. They don’t call ‘em helmet heads for nothin’.
As a kid, I remember standing up in the front seat of my mom’s powder blue Ford Falcon as she drove fearlessly down the road. Seatbelts? What the hell were those? I can still hear her wedding ring tapping against the hard plastic of the steering wheel when she turned a corner. She had this way of turning the wheel with both hands like she was opening some kind of valve on a submarine. I suspect it was because there was no power steering, thus that staccato tapping rather than the fluid one-handed moves of today.
When we’d get home, she would always say “Home again, home again, jiggity-jig” from that cute poem entitled To Market, To Market. I still say it in my mind almost every time I drive into my garage.
It wasn’t until my brother came along that we got that exotic new contraption known as a car seat. Our cat was enamored with it for some reason but my brother hated it, I’m sure. He wasn’t much for being confined. He was a daredevil and had this strange habit of throwing himself on the ground and flailing his limbs around like a dying insect to make us laugh. And we did. In hindsight, it may not have been something we should have encouraged…but what the hell. It was the seventies and safety just wasn’t so engrained in the collective conscience.
During the summer, we’d take car trips. We traveled with a station wagon full of crap and my brother’s Big Wheel was one of them. I remember my mom lacing him into a big, orange life jacket when he arrived at our favorite weekend spot at the Lake of the Ozarks. It was something like you’d see hanging on the deck of the Titanic. It nearly swallowed him whole. After my mom got him all trussed up in his token safety gear, she’d go on her merry way to unpack a week’s worth of corn flakes and sliced ham and don her blue Catalina swim suit with the pointy Madonna bra cups while he barreled down the hill toward the lake at breakneck speed. We weren’t sure he’d actually stop before he was hurled ass over elbows into the drink. That explains the lifejacket.
Safety first, right?
Now back to that car seat. Look at the picture; the one with Josh, our cat, sitting in it. That was really it. It’s not something I pulled off Google images. This was the 70s version of safety. It was covered in cheap, brown plastic-ness that I guess was supposed to look like leather. All I know is that in Illinois in July, you could fry bacon on the seat of that thing.
The entire frame was made from hollow metal that the average toddler could bend which I’m sure my brother did. And that ridiculous protective bar that came down in front was way less effective than a well-toned arm across the torso better known as a “mommy seat belt.” Eventually, the cat scratched the hell out of the petroleum-based upholstery exposing its crumbly, foam innards. I can’t remember what quasi-safety apparatus came next to keep him becoming a human projectile. There was no such thing as the transitional booster seat.
We probably just threw him in the way, way back and let him roll around until he wore himself out.