Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose

The more things change, the more they stay the same

The French nailed it:  The more things change; the more they remain the same.  Take the panel of dials and needles and switches and knobs that runs across the span of the car from port to starboard just behind the steering wheel.

That’s right, the dashboard.   But why ‘dash’?  It’s not as if the thing is running anywhere.

Different ‘dash’.  This one means, as my dictionary puts it: “to strike or smash violently, so as to break to pieces”. 

Back in the days when vehicles were quite literally driven by horse power, occupants would have been dashed with gravel, grit and mud hurled up by the horses’ churning hooves — but for the ‘dashboard’ that deflected the stuff.

It’s been a few decades since most people depended on horse drawn carriages to get them down to the mall or up to the cottage, but the dashboard endures, even though it’s now embedded with a constellation of gizmos — tachometer, speedometer, odometer, clock, fuel gauge, turn flashers, battery indicator, GPS readout, AM/FM radio and CD player to name a few.

The horn in the centre of the steering wheel endures too — and that goes back to the barbaric days of Visigoths and Vikings and the like when marauders summoned their troops or prefaced their raids by having the guy with the hardiest lungs blow a blood-curdling solo into the narrow end of a hollowed-out cow’s horn.

What’s more, most automobile dashboards still feature an inlaid lockable recess on the front passenger seat side. We call it a glove compartment, even though it’s usually overflowing with roadmaps, gas station serviettes, a car manual, a tire pressure gauge and a handful of ancient, fossilized candies that only a desperately famished human would bring to his mouth. The glove compartment has become a repository for everything but gloves. Come on, now — when’s the last time you packed a pair of lambskin gloves in there to protect your hands while you’re working the reins?

Ironically, the venerable dashboard concept has made the leap to cyberspace. Keyboard technogeeks routinely download and customize a computer display that keeps them up to date with weather reports, time zones, news headlines, stock prices, phone numbers and pretty well anything else they want to check on regularly. 

The name for this cutting edge computer feature? Why, ‘dashboard’ of course.

 Young’uns must be bewildered by the terminology the rest of us grew up with. Thankfully we no longer have to try to explain concepts like clutches and throttles.

I’m still trying to come up with a credible story for that little round hole in the dashboard. You know — the one you plug your GPS unit or your cell phone or your iPod or your laptop into. I can hear the conversation in my head already.  

“Did you have Xbox and Gameboy when you were a kid, grandpaw?”

No, I will say.

“Then, why’dja have that adaptor on your dashboard?  What didja use it for?”

And I will explain we called that adapter ‘the lighter’.  And that, as incredible as it may sound, there was a time when people voluntarily inserted dried weeds wrapped up in a paper tube in their mouth and set fire to one end of the tube, sucking the smoke out of the other.  The ‘lighter’ was what we used to ignite the tube of weeds.

“Wouldn’t that make you sick?” he will ask.

Not only sick, I will tell him, it would eventually kill anybody who did it long enough.

“Did it make people happy?” he’ll ask. 

Not particularly, I’ll say.  In fact, if you stopped doing it, it made you very grouchy.

“But Grandpaw,” he’ll say, “That sounds crazy.”

And I will have to answer, yes.  

Yes, it does.


Just Posted

Pam Bottomley (executive director), right and Sandy Hurley (president) of the Parksville Downtown Business Association visit the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: Downtown Parksville gears up for post-pandemic bounce back

Podcast: Hurley, Bottomley chat about what’s ahead for the PDBA

(Black Press file photo)
RCMP: Air ambulance called to Whiskey Creek after crash involving 2 motorbikes

Both riders taken to hospital with serious injuries

(File photo)
Crime report: Crooks busy pilfering bikes throughout Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Thefts among 295 complaints Oceanside RCMP deal with in one-week period

The Arrowsmith Search and Rescue logo on the back of a service vehicle. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville and Qualicum Beach provide letters of support for Arrowsmith Search and Rescue

ASAR asks for increase in funding, one-time capital grant and for RDN to buy out current facility

The proposed running track upgrade at Ballenas Secondary is now on course. (PQB News file photo)
RDN: Parksville track upgrade project gains some traction

Staff recommends board approve $204,000 funding

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Most Read