Thursday, October 23, 2008
Pokin' along in cars that can't fly
It’s time for auto manufacturing giant GM to chuck its tired 100-year-old game plan and ignite the future by mass producing sleek fleets of flying cars.
I’m sick and tired of opening the newspaper -- and, yes, I recognize the irony of learning about one dying industry by foolheartedly supporting another -- and reading that GM is shedding another 5,000 jobs in some godforsaken blue collar part of what Sarah Palin calls “real America.”
I’ve long argued about the silliness of building an entire industry around the 160-year-old technology that is the internal combustion engine.
Our best computers become obsolete in five years tops. But we still rely on the same earth polluting, fossil fuel consuming technology to propel our lives that was a brandspanking new innovation when James K. Polk was president.
(Pointless aside: Polk, the 11th president, made his name as a lawyer and legislator in Nashville, where I worked for three years in the late 1980s. Whenever I, a real history buff, come across his name I’m reminded of the still existing Polk Motel and think it would be fun to spend an illicit afternoon there just so you could always say you enjoyed a “Poke at the Polk.” Printing something like that on promotional T-shirts would be a cheeky fun way to boost business.)
“But if we all of a sudden stop using the internal combustion engine, industries will crumble,” fret many business experts.
Hallelujah. They are businesses that already failing and they used to say the same thing about steamboats and the railroads. Time marches on.
We need to seize on the best of American innovation and dramatically vault over existing technologies. That means it’s finally time for the flying cars.
I remember a conversation with a buddy who lamented that 2008 is still essentially a horse ‘n’ buggy age.
“Really, there’s been no true, world changing innovations,” he said. “I remember growing up and thinking that by now we’d all be zooming around in jet packs. And I want my jet pack!”
He’s absolutely right. I find it hard to believe that GM engineers aren’t every bit as imaginative and talented as those employed by Apple, the gold standard of American innovation and the reason why there’s never been a better time for those who enjoy vapid distractions to be alive and stumbling mindlessly down sidewalks.
Of course, if we all had flying cars these innocents would be spared the unsightly obliteration that comes from cocooning themselves from realties like on-rushing traffic at the approaching crosswalks.
And a venerable company like GM announcing it was pursuing inexpensive, green and popular flying cars would inspire the nation in a way not seen since the dawn of the U.S. space program. The best young minds in the world would line up to participate.
The enormous federal deficit could be slashed as expensive road building and maintenance projects could be shelved. Who needs asphalt roads when cars are little more than relics of nostalgia?
And, perhaps best of all, the advent of the flying car would help eliminate another ailing industry that ought to be put out of our mutual misery: airlines. I’m convinced that someday soon our children will look back and wonder how we as a people ever allowed ourselves to be treated the way we do simply for having the need to travel.
So bring on the flying cars. It took us fewer than 10 years to put a man on the moon from the day President Kennedy boldly challenged America to strive to do so. Putting a man and his minivan in the air shouldn’t take nearly as difficult.
I expect to have mine in the garage by the year 2015. Then you know what I’m going to do next?
I think I’ll celebrate the achievement by flying my wife down to Nashville for a visit to the ol’ Polk Motel.
She's a bit of a history buff, too.