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Herb Palmer: All the comforts of home available now in your car

Remember the good old days, owning a 1925 Model T Ford? The first thing you did before taking a short drive to the Pike Lake Auto Club for a dip in the lake, and subsequently enjoying a famous Auto Club chicken dinner, was to take a good look at ...

Remember the good old days, owning a 1925 Model T Ford? The first thing you did before taking a short drive to the Pike Lake Auto Club for a dip in the lake, and subsequently enjoying a famous Auto Club chicken dinner, was to take a good look at your car. It was essential that the tire pump and repair kit were on board. And, of course, if it was on a Sunday and you were dressed in your best go-to-church clothes, you must have a sweatband for your forehead if needed.
If you can't remember such annoyances, chances are you never owned a car in that labor-intensive period and never traveled over a bumpy, graveled road, even for a short trip of less than 20 miles on those Firestone 30 x 3 1/2-inch tires.
Things have certainly changed for the better. I can remember driving to Mexico City in 1951 in my 1948 Buick Roadmaster over highways and oiled dirt roads where tires and tubes often blew out, requiring tube patches with rubber glue. Our total distance to and from was about 6,000 miles here and there.
Those were the days when gasoline cost 18 cents a gallon, when gas stations were often far apart, and the only travel problems were to keep the gas tank full and to find a good motel at the end of each day. A car was a car, and the principal worry was that you didn't run out of gas and that the tires remained healthy.
From the time of Henry Ford and those early Model Ts, Americans have loved their cars. Today, electronic devices make it possible to combine home life with vehicular comforts, turning cars into a home-like atmosphere while traveling. In the back seat, the kids watch fun programs on video, while parents in the front seat visit together, share mail together, sports scores and stock prices on their computers.
With Americans spending more time on the road, the urge is to take their creative comforts with them. Among the many systems now available are built-in mini refrigerators, Internet access, vibrating massage seats, downloaded music, digital video systems and multiple television screens allowing family members to enjoy their own programs while the kids watch the cartoons.
Not only are vehicles becoming more like home, but also automakers are beginning to market them that way. Honda is working on a model it calls "an apartment on wheels," that will feature a flat floor and even electronic gadgets that include wireless Internet, DVD and satellite radio-stereo systems.
Automakers' advertising leaves no doubt as to the appeal to harried parents with kids. A commercial for the Chevrolet Venture minivan shows mom and dad up front exchanging blissful glances as mom navigates through heavy traffic.
In the back, three children wearing headphones are watching a cartoon on a small screen suspended from the ceiling. The only sound is an occasional giggle from the back seat. For some kids, a car without gizmos is a candidate for the Smithsonian.
In recent weeks, GM began offering East Coast buyers 32 of its voice-activated systems that provide access to a variety of products and services. The system uses a microphone embedded in the service mirror or ceiling and a synthesized voice system to allow motorists to check their e-mail, track sports scores and stock fluctuations, and even get customized news reports.
This summer, On-Star will offer subscribers the ability to exchange stocks while at the wheel. Ford and Sprint PCs are working on similar systems. On another subject, one mother saved a talk about sex she wanted to discuss with her 8-year old until they were alone together. They had a frank discussion that wouldn't have occurred otherwise, she says. We are broadening the definition of a car. It's not just a focus on transportation, it is also a time to fulfill your daily tasks in entertainment and general information.

(Editor's Note: Material in this column was obtained from a news feature entitled "All the comforts of home in a car," written by Jacqueline L. Salmon in The Washington Post national weekly edition.)

On the lighter side ...

Once upon a time, the government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of a desert. Congress said someone may steal from it at night, so it created a night watchman, GS-4 position, and hired a person for the job.
Then Congress said, "How does the watchman do his job without instruction?" So it created a planning position and hired two people, one person to write the instructions, GS-12, and one person to do time studies, GS-11.
Then Congress said, "How will we know the night watchman is doing the tasks correctly?" So it created a Q. C. position and hired two people, one GS-9 to do the studies and one GS 11 to write the reports.
Then Congress said, "How are these people going to get paid?" So it created the following positions, a time keeper, GS-09, and a payroll officer, GS-11, and hired two people.
Then Congress said, "Who will be accountable for all of these people?" So it created an administrative position and hired three people, an administrative officer, GM-13, assistant administrative officer, GS-13, and a legal secretary, GS-08.
Then Congress said, "We have had this command in operation for one year, and we are $18,000 over budget, we must cut back overall cost," so it laid off the night watchman.
Lars does not like to go to weddings, and he attends very few. Finally, his good wife, Hilda, insisted that he attend a wedding with her. As they entered the church, an usher asked, "Are you on the groom's side or the bride's?"
Before Hilda could reply, Lars exclaimed in a shocked tone, "Uff-da! Are dey fighting already?"
-- The Best of Queen Lena

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