When We Were 19, It Was a Very Good Year

The presenter of this chart argues that the Internet has fucked up the instincts of American Youth for a good ride. But what catches our fogeyish attention is the base year, where we’re stuffed in the far-right gray column:

It’s a rarely acknowledged transformational shift that’s been going on under the noses of marketers for as long as 15 years: The automobile, once a rite of passage for American youth, is becoming less relevant to a growing number of people under 30.

As we’ve observed before, the Seventies Teens on that chart lived through the 1973 gas crisis, and have no excuse for seeing that the future will be a lot different than the past. (Although the Gulf Oil stop-motion commercials were really cool.) But as far as a “rite of passage”, well, you try living on the edge of town with a bike.

Is Digital Revolution Driving Decline in U.S. Car Culture? [Advertising Age, via Sully]

I doubt that it’s entirely the reason. Could be that youngin’s don’t make enough money to justify getting a car unlike the oldin days.

I dunno, Manchu. I tend to think that all that digital entertainment that’s available at home probably has tempered young peoples’ desire to hop in a car and “cruise” downtown on a Friday night. And staying home o a Saturday evening is a lot less alienating when you’re fragging real opponents over the internet (and engaging them in lively banter) than back in my day when your only option, basically, was to switch on Saturday Night Live and be constantly reminded of what a loser you are by the barrage of late-night phone sex commercials between each lame skit.

@Serolf Divad: What a touching portrait of your late adolescence.

@Serolf Divad: I think you’re on to something, although Manchu’s observation shouldn’t be discounted. (Cars and insurance were cheap back in the day.) Unless you were out and about, your only choice for human contact was the telephone, and then only land lines. (Or parents, but come on.)

For that matter, your only in-home choice for entertainment was network television — no cable, no DVD, no video games. Unless you got out of the house, you were stuck.

They had cars in 978? Sure those weren’t chariots?

@Serolf Divad:
Heh. I had the double whammy of ending up companionless and getting back just in time to see the really awful bad skits on the last 1/2 hour of SNL. Thank FSM that I was usually really drunk at that point.

@JNOV: Chariots are far too civilized for 978. I’m gonna go more for rude carts pulled by mules or oxen. Horses were reserved for the gentry so they could ride around chopping off the peasant’s heads.

@nojo: Absolutely! Somebody tell Sully his chart is fucked up.


I haven’t gotten to the “touching” part yet… er… nevermind.

TJ/ Ugh. I’m trying to get through the introduction of a book I have to use for class, and it’s sucktastic.

Wait! Advertising Age fucked up the chart? Pitiful.

@JNOV: It’s AdAge’s chart, and it looks right to m— oh, now I see it.

But those are the 17-year-olds. They’re hopeless anyway.

[None of his literature students are paying attention]
Jennings: Don’t write this down, but I find Milton probably as boring as you find Milton. Mrs. Milton found him boring too. He’s a little bit long-winded, he doesn’t translate very well into our generation, and his jokes are terrible.
[Bell rings, students rise to leave]
Jennings: But that doesn’t relieve you of your responsibility for this material. Now I’m waiting for reports from some of you… Listen, I’m not joking. This is my job!

@IanJ: Oxen? You were lucky to have an ox. A cart? With wheels? Ohhhh, you were lucky to have a cart. We had a dog and a travois to move all of our belongings all across North America in 978, or we made grandma carry the tipi while we hunted for buffalo. And then the was the flint napping. All day with the flint napping. Me hands were all bloody from the misses. But you had iron back then, too, didn’t you? You had it easy with the ox and all that.

I have two kids that are 19 and 16, and that can’t drive. Many of their friends can’t either. Part of it is economic (learning to drive is between $600 and $800, without considering insurance etc. since they don’t teach it in school any more.) They also have to do 50 hours of driving with a parent and frankly, they are so involved in theater and music there isn’t time. The oldest is in college in a small town so he really doesn’t need it.

You know I love you all more than I can say but there is a slight tendency here in the US to confuse our own social customs with the immutable laws of nature. No one at my London school drove. Of course we all had chauffeurs so there wasn’t the same pressing need.

So how did we trigger the paintball body armor ad? “Manchuuu . . . !”

@cuthbert: since they don’t teach it in school any more

I’ve been away from the Ancestral Home about twelve years now, but I still have many contacts in town, and when I hear about what the formerly well-funded local school district has come to, it depresses me. There were things we could take for granted — music, arts, even driver training — that just aren’t available any more, or require funding far beyond the annual candy-bar drive.

My high-school years weren’t like the movies, because there were plenty of things to do if you weren’t a jock — we had a very strong band and drama program, and many of my bandmates are still professionally employed. (One of them — hi, Scott! — conducts the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York, which has a gig at Carnegie Hall tomorrow night.)

If teabaggers want to complain about how we’re bankrupting future generations, fine. They might start by shoveling some money back into the schools, so the next generation isn’t bankrupted by their greed.

@Benedick: No one at my London school drove.

Uh-huh. I don’t want to hear from fucking Manhattanites, either. Build us a Tube, then we’ll talk.

@nojo: I’ll be taking Son of RML out to the desert soon to do a little driving sometime soon.

@redmanlaw: Lesson One: If you want him to learn stick, get him something powerful like a Jeep. A VW Bus is not an educational tool.

@nojo: We didn’t have a tube. Not in South London. I rode buses. Mum would break the ice on the water in the bucket so I could wash, wrap a couple of sandwiches and an apple in a cloth and tie it on the end of a pole I put over my shoulder. First I took a train. Then I’d get off and get on the bus. Then change to another bus. Cor, it was ever so much fun. Sometimes I’d get home before it was dark. I used to sing to myself during the final 20 min walk through the dark streets to keep my pecker up. Mum used to keep the gruel hot for me. If dad hadn’t drunk away all the food money.

@Benedick: Nice try, but I’ve seen Hope and Glory.

@Benedick: Sherman Alexie’s books about contemporary Native American life of privation trigger my post traumatic stress disorder, although our family did not have the alcohol problem his did because they didn’t drink. Still, our situation was still way above what my parents grew up in. Son of RML has no clue what any of that was like. His best friend at school and fishing buddy is a blond lacrosse player who summers at the grandparents’ place at Martha’s Vineyard.

@nojo: The Toyota Tacoma will be fine for that. My Dodge Dakota will do for the automatic.

It’s been a struggle to work this afternoon, all day in fact, so I’m just gonna roll to the Home Depot for some lumber for this weekend’s project.

@redmanlaw: My newly reclaimed family in Scotland are similar. The generation before me were coal miners, working under ground on their knees. Their grandchildren fly all over the world and live in beautiful old houses on the Fife coast.

@nojo: Fair enough. But it did take an hour and forty minutes each way. Plus the walk. Cor strewth! It did make me dogs bark, gov!

@redmanlaw: I wanted my students to read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. One day. One day…

@JNOV: I’ve got “Buy Used Textbooks”, teach.

@nojo: Moms Nabisco was part of the early fiscal conservative movement on our local school board to get driver’s ed off the curriculum. Fortunately I had already cleared graduation and was out on my own, but Nabisco the Younger had to suffer the slings and arrows of people knowing that his mom wanted to take away their driving privileges.

I didn’t drive all that much in high school, in part because my parents didn’t just toss me the keys whenever I claimed to need them. So I rode with others, and there was a lot of Friday night tooling around with a case of Gene cream ale and the local freeform AM radio station*. I didn’t actually own a car until I was 26 and could buy one myself, and that was a total heap Ford Fiasco with no A/C and an electrical system so wonky that the horn would go off whenever I switched on the wipers.

I have every intention of teaching the biscuits how to drive when they are old enough for a permit, but I will gladly say “you can have a car when you can pay for it yourself“.

I totally lurved those Gulf ads, we were a Gulf family through and through. They gave out great swag at the pump, I remember plastic horshoes that stuck in the window and the brief fad of an American flag sticker.

*The only AM station that would allow it’s DJs to actually pick their own music, and even the callsign of the station was a shout out to Bay Area hippiedom.

@Benedick: Then, if dad hadn’t passed out in a drunken stupor before I got home, he’d beat me to death and bury me alive half an hour after I had to get up to get ready for school again.

@redmanlaw: Well, to be fair, in 978 my ancestral people* would have had horses and cows, but no vehicles of any kind, for the most part. The cows, in any case, were mostly there for rieving across the border** from the English anyway. They raided our coos, we raided their coos. My family were more or less famous for being ready for a fight at a moment’s notice, and if the Sassenach*** had had their heads far enough clear of the mud to notice (further south than the rieving zone anyway), my family would have been featured on the posters describing why the English hated the Scots.

* That would be the Scots, probably. Coulda been the Picts too, but history is unclear on what exactly happened to them after 850, and anyway they never lived in the lowlands.

** Actually, the border wasn’t fixed for us to rieve across until later, but why ruin a perfectly good story?

*** Border families didn’t actually speak Gaelic or wear kilts in 978, they were probably speaking the same language (brythonic? old English? not sure) as the English. It’s just fun to pretend. Sassenach is Gaelic for Saxon.

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