By DARREN HANDSCHUH
Every year my parents would go on a two-week vacation that typically involved a marathon road trip somewhere in the United States.
We would all pile into the station wagon with the fake wood grain finish and head out on the open road while towing a tent trailer that would be our home for the next 14 days or so.
My parents would sit in the front of course, my two sisters in the back seat and my brother and I would lay down in the back with some pillows.
Seatbelts? We don’t need no stinking seatbelts.
We would wave at police as they went by and sometimes the police would wave back. No one gave it a second thought that we did not have any seatbelts and the only thing keeping us back there was gravity.
We were kids, we never thought of the possible dangers. What did we care if in the event of an accident we would rocket through the air like little pink missiles - we had the back of the family wagon to ourselves and it was sweet.
It was a different world back then. We would drive at 60 miles per hour for hours on end and the only safety device my brother and I had were the pillows that would hopefully pile up at the windshield before we did thus cushioning the blow as our young selves hurled around the interior of the car.
Other kids would be sitting in the back of their cars waving at us. It was like a rolling convoy of kiddie carnage just waiting to be unleashed.
When dad had to slam on the brakes we would go sliding up against the back seat, books would be flying around, pens, pencils and what ever else we had back there with us would projectile to the front of the car.
A sharp corner had a similar effect only in a lateral manner rather than back to front.
It was kind of like a home-made rollercoaster, except there were no seatbelts of course.
We never thought of the possible hazards, nor did our parents, the police, the government or anyone else.
Now days, everyone has to wear a seatbelt, which is a good thing. You are also supposed to wear a helmet when riding a bike – another good thing.
As a young lad I learned to ride a bike with no protective gear whatsoever.
Helmets? Those were for motorcycles. No one needed them on a pedal bike.
These days when most parents send their kids out their bikes then have helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, a full suit of armor, home-made airbags on the handlebars and the occasional over-protective parent will run along side their child with a large pillow to throw beneath them should they have an unplanned dismount from their metal steed.
Of course no child should be sent out without being completely encased in bubble wrap. That way, when junior crashes all there will be is a multitude of popping noises as the child bounces down the street.
Crash – pop, pop, pop – bounce – pop, pop, pop. “I’m OK.”
The kid will look like the Michelin Man, but the new mantra is safety first so there can be no such thing as too much gear.
One area where safety has not penetrated is the world of skateboarders. You will see the occasional helmet, but in general the only thing between a skater’s melon and the cold, hard concrete is a hat or some goofy hair.
I guess it’s not ‘cool’ to be wear a helmet, but one good wack on the bean and you are eating Jello and playing with crayons for the rest of your life.
I am sure eventually the skater safety attitude will change and soon everyone on a skateboard will be covered in a titanium suit that could stop a speeding freight train.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world will already be several steps ahead in safety and all cars will come with dozens of airbags, all occupants must wear complete hockey gear – football gear would be an acceptable substitute for our American cousins – and, of course, the car, the driver and the passengers will be completely encased in bubble wrap.
Remember kids, safety first.