I was recently listening to a discusion about the futility and absurdity of electric cars on a radio program with Rush Limbaugh. I couldn’t have agreed more, but then as I was getting up to get a soda from the fridge in my condo on Chicago’s far nort side I slipped and hit my head. You guessed it, out cold. When I awoke the building was gone. I was laying in a field. Where once there were buildings lining the lakefront, I now had a clear view to Lake Michigan. Clearly perplexed and confused I gathered myself up and headed for a small rustic farmhouse nearby.
There was an old mare chewing on the tall grass beside a rutted dirt track which was would become Clark Street. I went up to the farm house and started to knock at the door when the old farmer came around from the side of the house, startling me a bit.
He looked me up and down, no doubt finding it strange that I was dressed in blue jeans and a brightly colored poloshirt. All I wanted was to get home somehow. I turned and managed a grin, rubbing the painful lump on my head. The farmer nodded politely and stuck well-calloused hands deep into his coveralls.
“Sorry for the bother,” I said, “but I seem to be, well… lost.”
The old timer started to speak when this odd sort of chortling sound stabbed at the otherwise peaceful quiet of the afternoon. Just beyond the crest of the hill a cloud of dust rose with the approaching racket. We both turned and watched as a horseless buggy and a single rider bounced along the dirt track. It was simple and noisy, rattling past, leaving a cloud of dust and the sweet bite of burnt gasoline.
“Ah, third time this week that feller’s come by in that crazy contraption,” said the farmer. “Damned things ought to be outlawed, I tell yah. Outlawed!”
I started to reply, something about that he hadn’t seen anything yet, and that one day everyone would drive cars, millions and millions all around the planet. I started to, but thought better of it.
“That so?” is all I said.
“Got a moment, friend?” he said. “Sit down here on the stoop and I’ll tell yah what I think for them so-called auto-mobeels.”
I joined the fella on the step. I was eager to get home, but it isn’t everyday a body gets to visit the 1890s, and being a nice day and all, I figured I could spare a few minutes.
“I’m all ears, friend.”
“See ole Bessie, here? Ain’t no better transportation than that. See them auto-thing-a-ma-jigs, they run on this stuff called gasoline. Crazy thing, there ain’t no such a thing in nature as gasoline. It comes from oil that yah get from the ground. Then yah have to cook it and put it through more tubes than moonshine soze it will run them things. Question is, where yah gonna go? Once you run out of that gasoline, the dang thing stops until you get more. Bessy here, well, there’s plenty of grass everywhere.” He nudged me jokingly. “And if she really don’t work, I can eat her!”
“What about gas…oline stations?” I offered. “Like where you could go and fill up?”
He gave me the oddest look for a moment. “You sure are an odd one. Where is the sense in that, driving from gasoline station to gasoline station. Where is the use in that? Further more, they bust all the time. The wheels, they ain’t made for dirt trails. So then I hear some genious wants to build concrete roads all over the country just for these things. It’s the devil, I tell yah. And who in god’s name is gonna pay for that. Horseless carriages, Hah!”
With that, the lump on my head got the better of me and I blacked out. When I came to I was home again. The guy on the radio was talking to some Oil Company spokesperson, still scoffing at electric cars. I stood up, dusted myself off, went over to the radio and smashed it to pieces.