I think, therefore I harm
I completed my secondary studies and entered college in 1995. I thus entered adulthood that year, at least as far as the law is concerned. The late 90s were what I call my big years, these years of college when I discovered everything about life, about having fun. I discovered alcohol, marijuana and tobacco in these years. This was also when I really discovered music. I developed and discovered myself during these years. My best memories are from that era. Fifteen years went by, but I really stuck there.
As of today, I mostly listen to songs that were hits during the late 90s, or bands which were popular back then though they might have evolved in the following years. Mostly, I was obsessed, and still am, by punk rock, which was then called alternative rock. Our Lady Peace, a band born in Canada in 1992, and still active today, is still my favorite band. But The Offspring, Blink-182, Grimskunk, Sublime, Ramstein and Green Day are still bands I listen to regularly, although they would be unknown to anyone who reached their sexual maturity after 2000.
Although I love technologies and appreciate what it’s bringing to our life, there are concepts that I haven’t evolved to appreciate as much as I should. Some things were simply better in the late 90s, at least in my old mind. Screens all over the place and virtual buttons are stuff that are still popular in science fiction, which look good in theory but just won’t work as good in reality. I really like the feel of an old rusty button between my fingers when it comes to controlling stuff. I like to keep control on things, rather than this attempt at total automatisation that the world is going to.
In last September, my grand-mother passed away, just days to her 90th birthday. Just days prior, she was happy to announce that she had passed her medical and could keep driving. She had just renewed her permit, which always expires and is to be renewed on one’s birthday. Just a day before, my father had spent the afternoon with her at the flea market, like they did often on beautiful days during the summer. Her health was unstable, but good for her age. She was living with a man about her age in his house, far from the city, without any outside help. She was doing good. With no warning, she simply went to bed in the evening and never woke up in the morning. The autopsy, performed systematically for a death at home, revealed nothing. She went away peacefully.
She didn’t have much possession. Everything she owned fitted a few boxes, most of which was clothing which my father gave to charities. Of her little possessions, the most important asset, at least to my father, was her photo collection. She had pictures dating back to the late 1800s, likely from older family members which my father have no clue about. She had pictures of her as a little girl, even though she was born in 1924. She had pictures of her husband when he served in the Second War. We had a lot of fun looking at these pictures, most of these previously unknown to my father.
My last job came with a car, provided for my own needs too. As I recently changed job, I became a pedestrian. But in planning this change, I was actually looking for a car. Having had a car since 2007, my life is built in such a way that I need one. My apartment is not near any commodity nor is it close to my workplace. Being a low wage worker, and a person looking to reduce his footprint on this planet, I was looking for a small, used, low cost car.
I have a really good friend, one I can count on (and she can count on me too, obviously). For an entire month, she didn’t need her car, so she leaned it to me. Officially free of charge, but I insisted and paid her something anyway. It was a decade old Pontiac Sunfire that was barely safe to drive. Every time I hit a pothole, I thought the car was going into pieces. Parts went to the floor at the front after every hard braking. But it was a fun car to drive and it had been put into my hands at just the right time. Two weeks ago, just when she needed her car back, I finally got my own car.
Among her little possessions, my grand-mother also owned a 1999 Toyota Corolla. My father, who inherited mostly all her belongings, didn’t need that car. Neither did my brother, which isn’t currently allowed to drive because mistakes of the past. So the car ended up in my hands.
Because of bureaucratic delays, my father was unable to transfer the car to me right away. He needed a death certificate, which our government takes a long while to print and send off. Thanks to my friend, I haven’t been a pedestrian during that time, at least not the whole time.
And I can tell you I was totally surprised when I took possession of the car. Having drove a rusty car for a month, I expected the worst from an even older car. But a 1999 Toyota is a different dog. My grand-mother wasn’t a mechanic, but she maintained the car well. It’s a real smooth ride. It had only 107,000 km on the counter, as she used it mostly for very short trips. She was a grand-mother after all, not an active person as I am who likes to travel half the province to acquire a new breed of fish. What she drove in fifteen years, I will likely drive as much in only two years.
My grand-mother wasn’t a picky person, but she picked her car well. She picked the highest level of options from a car that she knew was of the best quality, and wouldn’t cost her much to maintain. I have a remote starter, remote door lock, air conditioning and even cruise control. I don’t have any computer that tries to drive for me, everything is fully manual, so I can really drive. Everything is hard buttons and physical gauges, no touch button, no screen, no digital display. Everything feels just right to me. Every time I get in the car, I feel like I’m back in the 90s again.
She changed the stock radio at some point with something that brings just the right level of technology. The new radio has bluetooth so I could connect my phone and receive phone calls and play music, though I’m still trying to figure out how to pair it. I think I could also connect a USB key to it to play music but I haven’t tried it yet. But it doesn’t look out of place, it has all hard buttons and blue lights, and the display shows random patterns while playing, just like it was trendy in the 90s.
That car is all that is left from my grand-mother, and it’s the best present she could have left to me. I made a promise to myself to maintain and drive that car for at least another fifteen years.