'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
BACKSEAT TRAVEL ADVENTURES MORE INTERESTING THAN DVD
The other day I stopped at a red light and noticed the car in front of me had a DVD screen that some kids in the backseat were watching. Hey, that’s “The Little Mermaid,” I thought. I could tell the film was in the middle of the “Under the Sea” song. From my vantage point I could not hear the soundtrack, but since I watched that video at home approximately 8 billion times when my daughters were young, that lively tune is forever ingrained into my brain. So I hummed along, voyeuristically gazing over the heads of those unsuspecting backseat youngsters.
When the light turned green, for a moment I contemplated following the car so I could continue watching the film rather than take the left-hand turn required to attend a meeting at a client’s office. The fact I even contemplated doing such a thing gives you a good idea I ought to be attending a different kind of meeting each week, one where I say, “My name is Bill, and I’m a video-holic,” to which the rest of the group replies in unison, “Hi Bill.”
Anyway, one of my favorite writers, Tracey O’Shaughnessy, discussed automobile DVD players in her “Sunday Reflections” column a couple of months ago. She noted: “We live in a Culture of Distraction,” and, “The country is suffering from communal Attention Deficit Disorder.”
Tracey pointed out that the proliferation of electronic gizmos in our lives—the typical family today owns approximately 30 such devices—allows us to constantly tickle the pleasure center of our brains, but stunts our ability to form actual human relationships. (Which is the only thing, by the way, that experts say will provides true, lasting happiness.)
DVD players in cars are in the process of depriving an entire generation of one of the most enjoyable activities in life: reminiscing about childhood vacation trips.
Just imagine what will happen when today’s youngsters become adults. As a group of brothers and sisters are having a conversation, one will say, “Hey, remember that 10-hour car ride to Niagara Falls?”
The others will shrug and say no, and the one sibling will insist, “C’mon, you remember. Bobby listened to his i-Pod the whole trip, and Jenny watched ‘The Little Mermaid’ five times.”
The others will glance at each other, and after a long, awkward pause finally will say, “Umm…sorry, don’t remember.” How boring!
When I get together with my siblings, and someone says, “Hey, remember that 10-hour car ride to Niagara Falls?” it sets off a 3-hour laugh fest of comical stories (some of them even true!). One tale in need of no exaggeration is the fact that the question, “Are we there yet?” was asked literally one thousand times—each time more whiny and annoying than the last. We actually counted the number of times, an exercise that improved our math skills. We also counted license plates, which improved our geography skills.
The coup de grâce of stories (coup de grâce is French for “Are we there yet?”) is the re-telling of Dad’s famous “I have had enough!” acrobatic feat, whereby he twisted his torso 180 degrees to the right, and while keeping his left hand firmly on the steering wheel, somehow executed a deft backhand sweep, producing three staccato bops across three young foreheads.
Before we even realized what had happened, Dad was already back in the proper driving position, the car never wavering an inch from the center of the travel lane. Quite a skillful gymnastic maneuver, if you ask me. And much more interesting to talk about—40 years later, anyway—than being a backseat movie zombie.
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