Opinion Columns & Blogs

The ‘land of no restraints’ is the land of no more

Years ago, in the “land of no restraints,” we were allowed to experience riding in a car standing up, usually on the front seat (better for seeing the world ahead) with our arms wide open — and in a way — greeting the world as it flew by at 50 miles an hour.

Feeling the breeze first hand in a convertible or maybe extending our arms outside the window in a sedan was a beautiful experience. And there may have been others in the car, lounging about, feet here or there, maybe even looking at the world out the rear window, which was kind of neat as you saw the world you’d left behind.

Many station wagons had rear seats facing the rear or places to lie down while on long trips. The point being, there were really no restraints in the car and the freedom of travel was protracted in a way, by the freedom of traveling while you traveled. No one gave a thought to traveling after the vehicle in which you traveled stopped and jumping up and down on the seat did indeed prove you were, in fact, going as fast as the vehicle in which you were riding.

Enter the world of restraints and the seat belt, the first of which were similar to seat belts found on airplanes. It was thought that placing a belt around one’s waist would prevent injury when the vehicle you were in stopped and you were still moving at 50 or 500 miles an hour. Someone came up with the shoulder harness for cars and we all ride much safer as a result. Airplanes still use the waist belt because at 500 miles an hour, you may as well be standing up in the seat if you come to a sudden stop.

I don’t fly because there is really nowhere I need to be that requires getting there at 500 miles an hour — and although I saw “Sully” planes are not boats and I prefer to do my swimming in a bathing suit at the beach rather than finding myself in the Hudson River or some other body of water.

Europe is old and dangerous. The Middle East is hot and dangerous and Australia has poisonous snakes, so I shall remain in America, where beauty resides and safety reigns. However, one cannot escape traveling in some way and so it was the other day when the wife purchased a restraining car seat for placement in my beautiful Ford F-150 truck. No, not for me, but so I could take the grandson “wherever you want to go” which means wherever and whenever I go and he’s available. Safe, exotic places, you understand, such as McDonald’s or wherever there’s a playground.

This frees her up to play Words with Friends. She makes all purchases over $25 (I’ve been a kept man for 37 years) and so it was no surprise to me when she made this car seat purchase. It was designed by an engineer intent on making humans look as dumb as possible, and if he’s not the president of his company, he at least needs a promotion.

The instruction manual came with verbiage plainly stating that my vehicle may be different than the one in the book (which it was), that his parents were his first teacher and the car thingamabob might work and might not, but no one could predict that. However, we’d better darn well have the kid strapped in before moving.

Then there was something about a recall, which I don’t recall. The scariest part was the warning to the effect that if the thing doesn’t work it may be the result of dropped food, sticky drinks, dirt, leaves and a myriad of other nasty stuff my truck has not seen since purchase. It read like there was going to be a birthday party for 3-year-olds in the rear seat whenever we go anywhere.

After 30 minutes of wrestling with a child seat in the driveway, I decided to take the thing to the local professional child seat installer and that would be the neighborhood friendly fire hall. I was met by a large, no nonsense female, who said my vehicle might be different from the one in the book (no surprise there) and after 30 minutes of pulling, tugging and learning new words, the seat was installed.

It always amazes me when I think of surviving in the “land of no restraints” with sunburns, lead paint, rubber band guns and, did I mention, no car seats?

Sonny Harmon is a professor emeritus at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.