Beverly Godfrey column: Looking for yellow cars
This is turning into the summer of “Yellow Car.”
The rules are simple: If you’re driving in your car and see a yellow car, you yell, “yellow car!” and get 1 point. If you see a taxi, you yell, “taxi!” and get 2 points.
The first time I saw one, I yelled “yellow car!” and punched my son in the arm.
“Ow!” he said. “Why’d you do that?”
“I saw a yellow car. Wasn’t that right?”
“No, you don’t have to hit me,” he said.
“I don’t get to punch you? That’s not the game?”
“No, you just get a point.”
So this isn’t “Slug Bug,” but we’re amusing ourselves nevertheless.
Playing this game has made it seem like there are a lot of yellow cars on the road, a lot more than I would have expected. That raises the question: Are there more yellow cars than there used to be, or are we just noticing them now because we’re playing the game?
More importantly, it raises this question: What other stuff am I not noticing? If I invented a game about that other stuff, would I then notice it? Could I finally stumble across my million-dollar idea by deciding to notice something more important than yellow cars? Trends in the stock market, perhaps, or the next big fashion craze? What will pop culture fear after the zombie craze is over? These are the things I should be noticing.
But I’ve never been very good at that. I took a class in college called “Newspapers Today and Tomorrow,” taught by a forward-looking journalism professor. We learned about this new thing called the Internet, and we were supposed to imagine how a newspaper could be presented in electronic form. This was in early 1992, and I didn’t really get it. A guest speaker showed us message boards on “Chicago Online,” and explained that, soon, he could show us “America Online.” There wasn’t much content, though, and I thought it all seemed kind of pointless.
Some people might still argue that the Internet is pointless, but most of us can’t function without it. And while I can’t go back to 1992 and invest in America Online, at least I can say I was there and dismissed it. I remember a classmate trying to explain email to me, and I thought that sounded dumb, too.
“Why not just send a letter?” I asked.
“Because email is so much easier!” she said.
But at the time, I would have had to go to a school computer lab and use their email account. That didn’t seem easier to me.
I feel like I got in at the ground floor of the Next Big Thing, and got back off before the elevator doors even closed. But not everyone did that. The smarter among us noticed where the future was headed and rode it to success.
Getting back to Yellow Car, I’ll admit I’m not very good at the game, either. As I point out to the kids, though, my eyes are on the road because I’m the driver. I’m looking at the cars ahead of me, not scanning the parking lots we pass.
And there’s my problem. I’m always too focused on the stuff that keeps me busy, and don’t take enough time to imagine other possibilities. As long as we’re going to keep playing that silly game, though, I should make it a metaphor for life and learn from it. I need to start paying attention to the yellow cars in life, the things that are new and different. Who knows what I’ll find?
Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune copy editor. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.