The Old Coot misses the bumper; a rerun from 2008

The car bumper is history. That shiny, chromed, steel bar that once graced the front and rear of our Detroit dinosaurs has disappeared; it has been replaced with a plastic, bumper-like object that shatters when it “bumps” into something. Some pickup trucks and a few SUVs still sport a metallic bumper, but not cars. It’s another change I didn’t notice taking place. Now it’s too late. 

It’s too bad. It’s not just the shine that’s gone; so is the pride we took in slathering chrome polish on our bumpers, to finish off a ritualistic Saturday afternoon car wash. 

We lost functionality too. Where are you going to tie the baby shoes and tin cans when the bride and groom drive away from the church? And, where are businesses going to wrap the thin pieces of wire that held a cardboard bumper ad saying, “We had a blast at Hershey Amusement Park,” or “I visited Howe Caverns?” There’s no place to wrap the wire. 

Where will you stand to pick apples from a farmer’s tree when he isn’t looking and where can you attach a piece of rope to pull a friend out of a ditch? It’s more than the shine that’s gone. It’s a way of life that slipped away. And nobody said a word. 

When I tell my grandchildren about my favorite childhood Halloween prank, tying a stuffed dummy to somebody’s car bumper when they stopped for a red light in downtown Binghamton, they won’t know what I’m talking about. 

“What’s a bumper,” they’ll ask? They won’t be able to understand how we got even with the “meanest” woman on the south side of Binghamton on a blustery fall day in 1956, the stealth we employed to fasten a length of clothesline to her bumper while she was in her backyard hanging out clothes to dry, the care we took to cover the rope with leaves so we could connect it to her garbage can without it being visible and the patience we exhibited as we waited for more than an hour in the shrubbery before she finally came out of her house and drove off. She turned left on Pennsylvania Avenue, hell bent to get to a sale at Fowlers Department Store, oblivious to the racket she was making, oblivious to the now empty garbage can bouncing, rattling and leaping in the air behind her. My sides still hurt from that laughing fit so many years ago.

Yes, we got even with the “meanest” woman on the block. Mean, because she made her son finish his chores before leaving the house to hang out with us. The same son who blew a “laugh” gasket, hiding in the shrubs with the rest of us, the son who had actually tied the rope to her bumper, the son who, when it was over, and our laughing fit had subsided, turned to me and said, “Now let’s do it to your mother’s car!” 

It can’t be done anymore. There is no bumper to attach to. We’ve lost a lot more than a shiny piece of chrome. We’ve lost a way of life. Let’s have a moment of silence for another passing, “The car bumper is dead!”

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