Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Technology

Part One. Sometime in the early 1960s, when I was around 6 or 7, my grandmother was driving a gaggle of us young cousins home from a day spent at great-Aunt Lizzie's house, a grand old estate called Beaver Dam, in Middle Tennessee. Our simple pleasures of the day had been searching for geodes in the creek and cracking them open, sifting for fossils we called "Indian money," busily building and knocking down our own little dams, and later, wandering around the vast rooms of the antique house on the hill.

Heading home under the velvet sky of a late Tennessee evening, Grandma steered her beloved 1949 Plymouth cautiously as always, peering intently over the dashboard. The 20-mile drive home to Murfreesboro was a familiar one, along Woodbury Pike, a solitary two-lane highway. Somewhere after leaving the driveway of Beaver Dam, my grandmother made a startled gasp. She had suddenly noticed the odometer reading was 99,995 miles. She worried aloud to us what would happen when there were no more numbers left for the odometer.

99,996. Often quite a girlish prankster, Grandma was known to be theatrical; but this time she wasn't joking. She was really, really nervous. The sleepy cousins were all wide awake now and in a state of alarm. Grandma's fingers were anxiously gripping the wide steering wheel and her normally cheerful voice had an uncharacteristically frantic edge. We were doomed.

99,997. She always drove with her face over the dashboard, but now she was really intent, hunched forward.

99,998. We were heading towards Peak's Hill, at about 30 or 40 miles per hour. She slowed down to a crawl. When the odometer reached its limit, would the car stop, fall apart, all the screws and fan belts and complicated gizmos simply fly through the air? Was that the end of the life of the car? I imagined the group of us, sitting in bare car seats in the middle of the dark road, with an undone automobile collapsed in pieces around us, Grandma still holding the disconnected steering wheel.

99,999. The car crept to the top of Peak's Hill. I couldn't bear to look at the odometer and witness the certain, untimely death of the precious Plymouth. And where would we spend the night? So I glued my eyes to the dotted line in the road, watching each stripe arrive as if it were ticking away at our lives. One more line, one more line -- then what would happen to us? I thought that if I just fixed my eyes on the macadam, on the road that lay ahead, maybe we'd make it home before the dreaded End.

As we reached the peak of Peak's Hill, cousins in the back seat were standing up, peering over the driver's seat. All eyes were now riveted on the dashboard. We clutched each other and held our breath and watched as all five digits of the odometer flipped to zero. Nothing happened. Nothing. No boings, no popping springs, no tires fell off, not a hiccup in the motor. We cheered exuberantly, and Grandma shifted into third gear and headed for home.

00,001 ... 00,002....

Part Two. Somehow my grandmother's particular blend of admiration of and superstition about new technology hasn't fallen too far from the tree. These days I'm whipping through technology my grandmother never dreamed of when she died two decades ago; yet for all intents and purposes I might as well be driving that 1949 Plymouth on the internet highway.

When I decided to switch my blog template, solo, I suddenly felt that I was 6 years old again, right back at Peak's Hill. Would my blog just go BOINK and disappear, I worried?

Well, some of the elements have disappeared. I hope most will return. But I mostly hope that when I push that "publish now" button, comments will be magically enabled.

00,003 ... 00,004.....

BINGO! I have comments!

12 comments:

isabella said...

OK, Í'll be your guinea pig and post the first comment. Is it working? ;-)

In case it is, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year and thank you for keeping my dream alive...

Polly said...

Thanks! It works! Happy New Year to you, too!

GoingLikeSixty.com said...

What a great story about your grandmother. She must have taken great delight in providing such a memory for you.

I'm sorry that Blogger is treating your poorly, but thank you for getting commenting.

I've been a regular reader and you can bet I will be a regular commenter.

Lora said...

It's about time! Love your blog - love this story1

materfamilias said...

I love your new header. Like "Goinglikesixty" above, I've been a regular reader for a few months and am happy to have the chance now to comment from time to time.

Polly said...

I'm still working on the header, but it's the wee hours in Paris and I need my sleep. Stay tuned for updates. I'm just happy to have comments. A demain!

Jay Livingston said...

Congratulations on the new banner and especially on enabling comments. And congratulations to your great aunt on keeping a car for 100,000 miles -- something of a rarity in those days. Most didn't last that long . . . and they didn't have cup holders either.

Polly said...

Thanks -- and I'm still working on the banner.

No, definitely no cupholders in the Plymouth. And 3-on-the-tree gear shift. She used to drive us in it to the drive-in movies, though, when you had to attach the audio box to the driver's window.

Suzie vous-francais said...

And I want to point out that your poisson rouge and your grandmere share the same name...

Polly said...

Yeah, but I could never have told Grandma the secrets I divulge to my little Lou-Lou! Or the cuss words.

Louise de Vilmorin was more like a Parisian version of Dorothy Parker.

I'd prefer to name a human being in honor of grandmere Louise. (Or a Duck?)

Doc Thelma said...

A human being. Definitely.

Signed, Your Cousin

The Late Bloomer said...

I am SOOOO excited to see that you finally have comments, Polly! I've been reading you for months -- maybe since the beginning, I can't be sure?! -- and so many times I wished I could leave you a little note, tell you how much I appreciated your writing, your panache, your pizzazz -- OK, enough of the PPPs, right?! ;-)

I think I may even have sent you a wee little e-mail back eons ago, but once again, hurrah for comments! And Happy Belated New Year to YOU!

P.S. ~ I ADORED your post below about Matisse and your new goldfish. Beautifully written, so descriptive! And so visual, I could see it all in my mind.

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