Sunday, September 29, 2013
Long Drives and a Young Boy's Imagination, Part 3 (Final!?)
I've written a couple of posts about the sorts of long family drives my family took when I was a youngun--where we went, what we did, how we entertained ourselves in the car, whom we punched (siblings). Our last long car trip, as I said, was in 1965. I was about to begin my senior year at Hiram College; brother Dave was about to start his senior year at James A. Garfield HS in Garrettsville. We had a good time, Dave and I--all the way out and back. Playing catch at all the rest stops. Making up stupid games.
Like this one. We were (are?) big fans of The Three Stooges. Curly made a sound when he was spazzing out, a sound that was something like "bee-beeb-bee-bee-beeb-bee-bee-beeb." Anyway, for some reason, Dave and I started using the word beeb to apply to all sorts of things. On rough concrete roads we would say "Beeb" every time the car hit a crack (must have driven my dad crazy, though I don't recall that he ever tried to stop us--probably thought it was better than fisticuffs in the back seat).
Speaking of which, we used "Beeb" as a verb, too, as in "I beebed him" (hit him). And "That really beebs me off" (you can figure that one easily enough). And (of a baseball player hitting a ball hard): "He really beebed that one!" Other usages, as well--like "Look at that beeb on my car."
For some reason, in the back seat of that car, we started saying to the other: "You're the Bee-Beeber"--and the clever reply: "No, you're the Bee-Beeber!" (Brothers are so inventive.) Back and forth: Who's the Bee-Beeber?
I think now of my parents, two Ph.D.'s up there in the front seat, the fruits of their loins in the back seat (a high school and a college senior) snipping back and forth at each other, "No, you're the Bee-Beeber!" They must have felt something very akin to despair ... What had they done, bringing these boys into the world?
And then we started calling each other "Beeb," each insisting the other was the "real" Beeb. When we arrived in Oregon, our uncle John was initially puzzled--and then, I think, delighted--when he noticed we were calling each other "Beeb." We tried to explain. He didn't care. He just thought it was funny. "Beeb, huh?" he chortled. And Dave and I laughed--and still laugh at that one.
And the Beebing went on and on--and is still going on. Today, we address packages to each other like this: "Daniel Beeb Dyer" and "Davis Beeb Dyer." When one of us phones, "Beeb" is the fist word spoken--well, the second (before caller ID): "Hello?" "Beeb!" Now--with caller ID--"Beeb" is the first word.
Ring tone. Caller ID. Answer: "Beeb!"
Email? How do you think we address notes to each other?
When our son was born, I taught him that his uncle Dave was Uncle Beeb. That annoyed Dave, who could not convince little Steve that I was the "real" Beeb. Revenge came later: Dave had two kids whom I had to convince. I'm not sure I have, and they're well into their twenties. Compensation: Our son, now 41, still calls Dave "Beeb." (And Joyce, who knows the language of Beeb--can read and understand it--does not, except in very playful circumstances, use it.)
So--anyway--Beeb was one of the lingering effects of that 1965 car trip. We saw some historical stuff, too.
We began taking Steve on long car trips almost immediately after he was born in 1972--and he was a great traveler. In the days before child seats and restraints, we simply made a playpen out of the back seat, and he entertained himself for hours on end back there. (Lord knows--and so does Newton--what would have happened if I'd ever had to brake hard; I didn't.)
The summer after he finished first grade (1979), I drove alone with him from Lake Forest, IL, where we'd just spent a year, out to Cannon Beach, OR, where my parents were living. (Joyce was working in IL and stayed.) We had great fun. We each kept a journal (written and cassette tape); we played catch at every rest area. We saw the grand sights of the West that I'd loved since my own boyhood--the prairies of Nebraska, mountains of Wyoming, the Great Salt Lake, the Snake River Canyon, Mt. Hood, and on and on and on. We would make numerous other long car trips--Steve and Joyce and I--and he always took along a pile of books--but a cassette tape-player, too (he loved the recording of The Hobbit). No video games. Not yet. (And the arrival of those in our house is meat for another blog sandwich.)
But times have changed. Cars now have video in the back seat. Kids hold world-access via the smart phones in their hands. I like to think "my" way is superior to all of that--but I don't know what I would have done if those things had been available when our son was a youngster. Would we have let him watch movies in the back seat while we drove through the Rockies? Text his friends on the Pacific Coast Highway? Insert his ear-buds in the morning, remove them at night?
I like to think I wouldn't. But who knows? I've often wondered how much of a reader I would have been if there had been a gazillion TV channels (all those sports events!), the Internet, iPods, iPads, smart phones. It's easy to condemn what kids today do with their time ... but what would we have done?
I do know that most of the day--on those long-ago car trips--my mind and my imagination were engaged in some fashion--even if only to come up with a new usage for beeb. I was reading. Or finding a fresh way to torment a sibling. But I was also imagining scenarios as we cruised through that astonishing geography, and maybe all of that that had a good effect? Made me a more imaginative person? Or whatever? I like to think so. But, of course, that's what the Older Generation has always done--believe that the Old Ways were the Better Ways, and the New Ways are Destroying All.
Still--out on the freeways these days--when I pass a minivan and notice little kids in the back seat staring at glowing screens, I shudder.