Thursday, March 06, 2014

Are Automobiles Passe?

The latest generation gap: An article from the TORONTO STAR about Gen Y and Millennials, their phones, and cars came as a revelation to me:

Gen Y and Cars

Whereas for us Boomers a car was the primary teenage status symbol, smart phones and iPads have taken over that role. I can understand that development. But I was surprised to read that many young people born in the 1990s don’t consider a car a necessity and often aren’t even in any hurry to get a driver’s license. Our own sons (birth dates ranging from 1967 to 1982) shared my generation’s “drive” (so to speak) to acquire licenses and cars as soon as they could afford to support a vehicle.

To quote the article’s overview of the situation: “While boomers continue their love affair with the automobile, their tech-driven offspring would rather get from point A to point B on their smartphones.”

Now, I can grasp the concept of the smart phone as a substitute for other forms of social contact and even for computers. (Although I never use it that way myself. I have no desire to read e-mail or surf the Web on a cell phone or iPad; I use the iPad for that purpose as a last resort when we’re away from home without the laptop. I regard phone Internet access the way Samuel Johnson was supposed to have viewed a dog walking on its hind legs: “It is not done well, but you are surprised to see it done at all.”) But a phone as a substitute for a car? That’s completely alien to me.

Of course, this IS a Canadian view of the situation. One authority remarks, “Also, parking’s expensive and it’s easy to get around. . . on public transport.” I understand that statement applies to some U.S. cities, but not to any we’ve ever lived in. We’ve lived in the kinds of places with such inadequate public transport that without a car it’s almost impossible to hold a job, a plight that describes most U.S. locales.

And without a car, how do you go out on dates? (Even if they don’t call it “dating” anymore, young unmarried people must go places and do things together sometimes.) My aging brain boggles.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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