Growing up in the 70s, my generation never had to use seatbelts, so we love freaking out our kids (and harassing our moms) about it. I have one buddy who tells about a four-hour drive his family took with a car so full that he and his little brother had to squish into the passenger seat leg space beneath the glove box. Several of our moms tell about holding us as babies in their laps during trips down the interstate. And I remember several times that my little niece would stand on the back seat and lean out the window to yell at other cars (as a pipsqueak, she had a lot of road rage).
I’ve got an even odder story.
My folks had a pair of motorcycles when I was a kid and on weekends we’d go riding (I had a cute little helmet that I kept at the ready). Dad had a Honda CX500 two-seater with windshield; mom had his older 350 that she “tooled around with” during the week.
Proof that I have the coolest mom ever: she used to drop me off at kindergarten on her motorcycle!
So one day we were out for a cruise and dad stopped on a gravel road to talk to mom. I was on the back of his cycle and he told me not to move, but … well, I was six years old and not good at paying attention. So after a minute or so, I decided I wanted to ride with mom and I moved to hop off. I must have only been about fifty pounds then, but dad wasn’t expecting the sudden weight shift and he lost his footing.
We skidded on the gravel for just a minute but unfortunately he’d stopped at an angle and couldn’t correct before we went into the ditch and down a fairly steep – but luckily short – hill. Neither of us were hurt (though I told everyone at school I’d been in a motorcycle crash. I can be a touch dramatic at times.) because dad managed to hold the bike off the ground until I shimmied out to safety. We cracked the windshield though, horizontally across the entire length of it.
Being the parent, dad felt guilty about all this. Being the one who caused it, I felt worse. Neither of us much wanted to continue the ride, but we had to get home.
There was also the issue of what to do about the windshield. We had hopes that we could get it repaired if we salvaged the broken-off bit, but of course there’s nowhere to stash something like that on a bike.
So it was decided that I would be in charge of it. Picture this: I’m riding behind my dad and instead of holding onto his waist like normal I’m holding onto the broken windshield that he’s propped on the gas tank in front of him. On the highway. With stern instructions from my mom that I’m not to move my hands an inch either way or I’ll cut myself on the jagged edges. Oh, and I also need to remember not to pull it tight if we stop suddenly, or I’ll lurch it right into my dad’s chest.
So, yeah, we weren’t real safety conscious.
But now, whenever my generation starts reminiscing about the pre-safety belt era, I get to throw out this baffling-but-true line: Back in my day, seatbelts were nothing but shards of broken glass!