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Terry Pratchett wrote, “Why do you go away?  So that you can come back.”  Write about travel.

While “travel” today by car suggests great distances, possibly cross continental or at least to another region of the country, when travelling by car was new, a “trip” meant far fewer miles and often was restricted to that day of the week when work was forbidden; i.e., most people in the early decades of the 20th century who could own a car took it out only on Sunday, a situation described in the New York Times in 1928:  

It has been my custom for a number of years to take my family each Sunday on little trips on the suburban roads surrounding New York City.  My observations made on these drives lead me to believe that the crying need is not for more traffic regulations but for education of the so-called “Sunday driver” than which there is no greater menace.

The source of this “menace” was described in the Los Angelos Times at about the same time:

On account of only taking out [his] car on Sundays, [the Sunday driver feels] entitled to a lot of special privileges.  For one thing, [he] can drive anywhere on the road [he] pleases.  

I’m old enough to remember that 20th century phenomenon.  Today, a Sunday drive would seem a burden rather than an escape.  Perhaps, in my case, that is the result of too many jobs that involved driving; specifically, cab driver, delivery truck driver, and bus driver.  What would be the point of earning a living behind the wheel and then using any portion of the weekend to get back behind the wheel?

But more fatal to the practice of Sunday driving was a population shift from the city to the suburbs–suburbs from which the wage-earner had to drive, sometimes for over an hour, back into the city to work.  And in a traditional family–that dinosauer of an earlier time–life for the woman involved a constant ferrying of children from school to clubs to athletic fields.  Why would anyone–father, mother, or children–having spent much of the week in cars and vans, want to get back into a vehicle to ferry around part of the weekend.

The Sunday Driver, then, for the most part, has disappeared and has yet to be replaced.  It experienced a period of innocence when the automobile was as much a toy as a tool–an innocent stage like the few years during which the internet was a tool for sharing rather a platform for pornography;  and like the period in China when gunpowder was developed to treat skin diseases and power fireworks rather than propel shrapnel.

It will take a new technology, yet to be envisioned to usher in another period of innocence with which we can pass our Sunday afternoons.

 

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