I am sick and tired of getting stoned.
I will admit, publicly, that almost every day for the past few years I have been getting stoned, and I am unlikely to ever quit unless I get some help.
Astute observers of the human condition have often noted the association of the artistic temperament with a weakness in controlling their impulses.
It is difficult to refute or defend that suspicion. While that judgment may be true, I have yet to meet a man who claims to neither be creative, nor to have a sense of humour.
Perhaps with your support I can be redeemed from my life of futility.
Any man or woman who claims to never have cast stones at their fellow man is a liar, or living a falsehood. So as not to mislead you, let me be perfectly clear.
My getting stoned is not my fault; I blame it on others. I am a victim.
Last week I had to replace the windshield in my truck.
After only three years, the windscreen was fracture-laced by big rocks, pock-marked by medium-sized rocks and frosted and glazed by small rocks. The windshield wipers could no longer clean the surface effectively and even with hand-washing the visibility was poor when driving into low angle sunlight, or against the oncoming lights of vehicles at night.
The windshield was becoming a safety hazard after only three years of mostly highway driving.
Not that many years ago a windshield would last me two or three times longer before requiring replacement.
Why do I now only go two or three years before replacing the glass? Was the glass today now softer and more easily damaged? Was I driving faster or following too close behind vehicles? Was I spending more time on gravel roads? The answer to all these questions is an emphatic “No”.
My driving habits and routes have not changed during that time so I began to look for some other reason. And I believe I have found it. It was right in front of my nose.
Like so many things I looked but didn’t see it. When I did see it I had one of those “Well, I’ll be go to hell” moments of revelation.
You can see it for yourself on your next outing on the highway or to the city.
I believe that the cars and trucks of the last decade have had some design changes that create a shorter life for the windscreens of other vehicles. There is no doubt in my mind that vehicles of today are better in many ways. Brakes are better; they accelerate faster, ride better, and are more fuel efficient.
Progress is sold to us by offering something allegedly better; yet better turns out to often have an unseen downside.
Let us compare the shape and layout of vehicles today with those of the past.
For example, on most older model cars, from a side-view, you will notice that the overhang behind the back wheels is much longer.
There may be up to six feet of body behind the center of the rear axle.
Many of those older cars would nearly drag the back bumper on the ground while negotiating a small incline into a driveway. Standing 30 to 50 feet behind those cars you would barely see any tire exposed to your view.
Any rocks that were thrown up by these vehicles would be shot out and up, sandblasting the fender wells and bumper The long wheelbase of those old cars gave the owners a smooth ride.
In modern day cars, the manufacturers have kept the softer ride with the long wheelbase, as before, but have foreshortened the trunk resulting in less body overhang behind the wheels. In some cases only a few feet of body extends beyond the rear axle. Then, by making a smaller engine compartment and cramming more stuff under the hood and making the fender wells smaller, the manufacturer makes more effective use of the space and more room inside the vehicle.
Standing behind one of these modern vehicles, you will be able to see halfway up the tire.
Driving behind these vehicles you will be showered with everything thrown up and backwards by those tires. SUVs have even less overhang. The amount of visible tread exposure behind some of these vehicles amounts to almost two-thirds of the tire. It is no wonder that more rocks are now thrown up by vehicles.
A related design problem is the amount of body tuck or roll.
Older vehicles had nearly a vertical flat plane along the sides of the body.
Today, the vehicles have a bodyline that is tucked in, or rolled down and under, such that the tire tread sticks a tad outside the bodyline.
I suppose this makes for a more aerodynamic and sporty design and fuel efficiency, but it also throws up more rocks onto the vehicle itself and to vehicles following behind.
Another related design problem is the smaller fenderwell sizes.
Most of the vehicles today have a fenderwell opening not much more than an inch or two bigger than the diameter of the tire. The tire tread picks up stones and then once they get released by high centripetal forces, they get ejected with the speed of bullet.
In the confined space of a smaller fenderwell they then often fall back down onto the forward moving tread and get ejected out sideways and forwards into the path of oncoming traffic.
We not only have to now contend with backward flying rocks, but also forward flak. Ching-ching, the till rings again.
On light duty trucks, I have noticed another disturbing feature that contributes to a shortened windshield life for all of us. This is not so much a design problem as an outfitting problem. I have seen most half-ton, many three-quarter ton and some one-ton trucks with no mud flaps at all. These trucks all have large tires and throw up many rocks. Stand, or drive, behind one of these trucks and you will see a lot of tread exposed to your eye. The problem is even worse with those owners who mount wider than standard tires for whatever reason. Without mud flaps, you are guaranteed of getting stoned badly whenever one passes you. Whenever I purchase a truck, I always get mud flaps attached to protect my own vehicle and others. I recollect that years ago it used to be mandatory for a truck to have mud flaps but that law must have been repealed since many trucks come off the lot nowadays without mud flaps.
Perhaps it makes the trucks slightly more aerodynamic to meet fuel efficiency mandates, or perhaps the absence of mud flaps attached makes the cost marginally lower, or perhaps the mud flaps are an option that many elect not to purchase.
They are offered by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) as well as by many after market stores.
At any rate, my solution to longer windshield life is having the short-assed cars of today, the flat-assed SUVs and the flapless trucks outfitted properly.
With proper mud flaps on these vehicles, there would be less windshield damage, less road-spray and less kick-up of granular material from the roads. The addition of mud flaps to vehicles is not an altruistic move because both you and your motoring friends will all benefit.
Redemption is called for. Or we can put up with the status quo and all get stoned.
Paul Hemingson is a freelance writer who lives near Spruce View. His column appears every other week in LIFE. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.paulhemingson.ca