‘The role of cars during covid-19’ for the people of tomorrow


What did you do during the lockdown?

Sophie drives. Almost daily she heads out onto the country roads that surround Gettysburg. She has no destination, no one to see, she just likes motoring down the roads. When I start the car the next morning, the radio blares. On a lucky day, it’s music, but usually a D.J. yammering, or more likely a commercial. In my generation, we called blasting the music turning it up to eleven, but really, I think she has it turned up to, like, thirty.

My father asked how my kids are coping. We talk daily on the phone, my dad and me. This is new, since the virus. We used to talk once a week. Yesterday his wife Diane listened in on the speaker phone, Mothers’ Day and all. “Well, Eli games with his friends, Sophie goes for drives.”

“I used to do that.” This was Diane. “It was wonderful to get away from my family, drive through the country and listen to the radio.” Sophie’s coping method is sixty years old. It never occurred to me that she wants to get away from us. She’s out driving (avoiding us) right now. Thankfully, she’s an excellent driver.

Eli’s driving too, on Grand Theft Auto. He’s either a great driver or a terrible one, I can’t really tell. When his gaming buddies take the wheel, they’re far more cautious. Eli boldly floors it in every situation. He mostly avoids the other cars but often by jumping the curb and hurdling down the sidewalk, pedestrians flying this way and that. It’s hard to believe he’ll get his license in less than two years.

Other than Sophie’s aimless drives, our cars barely go anywhere. I drive a mile into town every day to get to work. And we run necessary errands—grocery store, UPS, Walmart—all the best places to show off our new cloth masks. But mostly our cars sit idle in the driveway. We’re squandering our chance to burn two-dollar gas.

The new thing is car parades. It’s your birthday? Your family and friends will drive by your home, horns blaring. I got an email today from Sophie’s band teacher. On Friday at 12:15, a bunch of cars will stream past our house paying senior-honors to Sophie. In prior years, at the final spring concert, the seniors walked to the front of the stage while the music teachers highlighted their high school achievements. Last spring I remember thinking “Huh, that will be Sophie next year.” Guess I was wrong.

We heard the plan for graduation today. More cars. We drive to the high school and drop Sophie off. Family can’t leave the car. Sophie walks onto a stage, mask in place, and the principal presents her diploma. No cap and gown. No after-party. A prerecorded ceremony starts at seven.

A few months ago, Sophie pointed out that for school assignments, she can use any data as research data providing it’s a ‘primary source’ (a first person) account. Sophie said it was funny to think that all the ridiculous TikTok videos she and her friends share to crack each other up will one day serve as primary source research data for students of the future.

So here it is. This essay is primary source data about the role of cars during covid-19. It’s my small offering to the people of tomorrow.

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

27 thoughts on “‘The role of cars during covid-19’ for the people of tomorrow

  1. I live in a mixed use neighborhood. There are 6 businesses (7 if you count the M.D. whose office is a house) that never closed, on my block. I hear cars all day and half the night, and our gas is over $3.50.

    Different states, counties, cities, even neighborhoods are having different experiences. It’s interesting, I think.
    I also think it’s great that some neighbors are coming together and helping to celebrate important events, like the 50th anniversary that Robyn wrote about.

    Strange to think our everyday lives are “Historical Moments”, but I guess with COVID-19, they are.🤔

    Awww, dang! You made me think. And right before bedtime too🤦‍♀️😉🤣🤣


  2. I also like getting in the car, windows down, music on way too loud, and driving to nowhere in particular. Speeding down open roads is therapy. It blows the cobwebs from my brain, lets me think while concentrating on nothing. I have an appointment with the open road first thing in the morning.


  3. I used to love to get out on my own and drive too. However, now that I live with my parents the three of us (plus my dog) get out for a drive together. We enjoy it. And I make my dog wear her little aviator hat (her first Halloween costume) because she’s my Dad’s co-pilot! Congratulations to Sophie on graduating. I am sorry she is missing out on the traditional ceremony and other graduation traditions.


  4. ” Sophie said it was funny to think that all the ridiculous TikTok videos she and her friends share to crack each other up will one day serve as primary source research data for students of the future.”
    This is true, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I used to do the same after I got my dribving license. I found it relaxing to drive around listening to LOUD music. Since I moved to the UK, driving is a much more stressful experience so I avoid it whenever I can. But these days, I often manage to convince the husband to take me for a drive around the countryside when I feel I need to escape our house/street/village. It’s nice to just look around, count the pheasants and try to spot other wildlife.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh. Driving in the UK. I did that once. Scared the crap out of me. I actually don’t really enjoy ‘going for a drive’. Going for a run or a hike yes, those are my ways to seek solitude. I’m pretty sure driving with LOUD music is what did my ears in.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been here for over four years now and it still scares the crap out of me most days! I’m not sure what’s worse: the narrow roads or the fact that most traffic rules seem to be entirely optional.

        I think going for runs and hikes is probably much healthier for both you and the planet, so it’s really not a bad thing that you don’t enjoy random drives to nowhere!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. We had college graduates get driven up and down the street in their cap and gown. One was graduating from Penn State, where I went and Bob loves so we have a lot of PSU stuff. Cate wanted to wave our PSU flag from one of our car’s sunroof. We hadn’t turned that car on since March 12th when I parked it after my trip to the gym and it angrily turned on. It’s amazing how long it has been parked and probably will be. I think they are doing the same with graduation here. It’s really sad but I guess, quite a unique graduation experience to tell future generations about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie holds her emotions close to her chest, so we don’t *really* know what she thinks of all this. She seems to be handling it well. I think her biggest disappointment is that she was counting on a roadtrip with a friend this summer plus a family trip out west. All cancelled before the plans were even made.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Makes sense. When I think of my senior year I could have cared less about walking the stage. For college and grad school I skipped both of those ceremonies. My senior year was all about friends, hang outs and fun. That is a shame she is missing out on all that stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, I agree. That last year at home was bitter sweet with my friends. But more sweet than bitter. I’m sorry they’re not out getting in trouble like they should be. I’m thankful that such a big part of relationships are on-line. Can you imagine if this happened in 1990?

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Love this. So many layers.

    When I was Sophie’s age, I loved “borrowing” my father’s car (a 1971 Camaro, a really fun car to drive) to gain solitude and distance on long drives. Great way to think and reflect. I’m grateful he never minded.

    I wonder how those, like Sophie, graduating this year – whether high school or college – will remember the lack of ceremony. Honestly, I have few memories of my “normal” graduation ceremonies. I hope they’ll take it in stride and assign it whatever gravitas they want, rather than assuming the weight their parents and families give it. New normal, and all that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think she really cares about graduation. Prom, yes. Senior trip, yes. A couple of big deal vacations we were planning before she headed off to school. Her freshman year. I’m feeling pretty bad for her. I think older teens are getting a raw deal right now. They can’t even get away from their freakin parents.


  8. Aww…I didn’t realize Sophie is a senior. So sad for the class of 2020, missing out on all the accolades and rites of passage. If she is going to school in the fall, I hope they will have in-person classes. My son teaches at Oregon State. He already knows his classes will be online for the fall, but his smallest class is usually about 150 students.

    Bill hasn’t driven his car in a month!


  9. My first thought when i saw the post was a thought I had a couple months back, when the pandemic first erupted: I am so gonna get a caravan one day. It’s on my to-do list.

    More like my to-wish-but-never-do list though.

    Enjoyed the post!


  10. I love that this post centers around cars but tells so much about general life right now. I drive only to pick up curbside groceries, etc. A short drive. I was confused between the lights and the wipers. Gas yesterday was $1.39. I usually listen to music in the car and not other times. I realized I miss music and have been turning it on at home and dancing around to it. Music is healing. I feel so sorry for seniors missing all the rights of passage and appreciate all the work going into parades and graduation of some sort. One thing I appreciate about this time is that my normally busy, busy street is so blessedly quiet. Sounds like your family has a good handle on your current life. Glad to hear that.


    • We’re all pretty much homebodies so being locked down doesn’t have much impact on us. Also there is tons of open space her to run and bike so we all tend to do that every day. My daughter definitely got a raw deal on her senior year. Her rugby season was just starting and all the special events she looked forward to go cancelled. She hasn’t even visited her college. But yes, the school is really stepping up for the kids. They are making it all as special as possible.


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