I yearn for the comfy bench seats of yesterday’s automobiles

I miss the benches. In cars, I mean.

You know, bench seats in the front of cars. I can’t think of a car made today that doesn’t have bucket seats in the front. There probably are some, I’m sure, but I certainly haven’t sprawled out on one.

The first car I ever drove was my mom and dad’s old ’58 Ford. You could pile all of your friends and half of your baseball team in that thing.

And that was just the front seat. The entire cheerleader squad at The Comp (a.k.a. LTCHS) could easily fit in that beast, although none of them could be persuaded to. (I know, I tried.)

Our buddy Jim would sometimes get to use his mom’s car, a humongous Buick, or perhaps an Oldsmobile (or, it might have been a Pontiac), which was about the size of a city bus.

If you wanted to, a person could lie down on the front seat, stretch out and still have lots of room past your head and feet. And you could still reach the A&W tray hanging on your half-open car window.

The impressive width of those tank-like cars meant that you didn’t need a tent when you went camping. And it was also the reason moms and dads were reluctant to lend the family tank to their sons to take their girlfriends to the drive-in theatre.

And speaking of girlfriends, you knew someone was “going steady” when the girl was squished all the way over beside her boyfriend, and he was driving with one arm draped over her shoulder.

Seatbelts? What seatbelts? You can’t do that with bucket seats, which is probably a good thing these days, because they’d both be on their phones texting each other and driving through red lights.

What got me thinking about all this was a recent article, headlined: People in Japan are renting cars, but not driving them.

Apparently, car rental companies are often missing out on the mileage charges because the cars are being returned with, basically, zero miles travelled.

So what’s going on?

Overpopulation, combined with a yearn for privacy, peace and quiet, or time alone, is what’s going on.

A survey showed that people are renting cars to have naps or to use as a workspace or a stationary office. Some renters said they used it to eat their lunch on account of they “can’t find anywhere else to have lunch.”

Others are paying for a car just to sit and charge their cellphones.

My first thought when I read this was, isn’t that weird. Then, isn’t that interesting. And then, boy, it would sure be a lot better for them if cars still had bench seats.

But when I think about it some more, I realize that, ironically, the first three cars I owned had front bucket seats, when 90 per cent of cars on the road still had good, old bench seats, and bucket seats were rare and super cool at the time.

An Austin Mini (Mr. Bean car before Mr. Bean), my beloved beat-up Triumph TR3 sports car, and a ’67 Mercedes four-door sedan (which I still have, although it’s been a dead-Benz mouse-house parked in a barn for years).

So I guess it’s natural to want something when you can’t have it, and want something else when you can.

Still, I wouldn’t mind having a nice nap stretched out sideways in the front seat of a car again.

I wonder if anyone has a ’58 Ford they’d like to rent for a couple of hours. (Engine optional.)

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. He can be reached at harleyhay1@hotmail.com.

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