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

Order in the chambers: Qualicum Beach votes for council code of conduct

Coun. Robert Filmer’s motion passes unanimously at town meeting

Rainbow crosswalk in Qualicum Beach covered in mysterious black substance

‘It was disappointing to see this act of disrespect take place inside our community’

Oceanside RCMP hunt for man after pair of indecent exposure incidents

Elderly woman grabbed by man who had been masturbating in the woods

Nanoose Bay’s Northwest Bay Road again open to the public

Single-lane alternating traffic expected to stretch into September

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Striking Western Forest Products workers could lose benefits in September

Union, forest company at odds over Vancouver Island benefit payments as strike enters third month

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Forests minister visits B.C. town hit by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

B.C. music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

B.C. family stranded in Croatia desperate to come home

Funds being raised to bring back mom and two children

Most Read