Summon the car windows that have been moved along the road

Summon the car windows that have been moved along the road

The green neon letters on the blinking sign assure me that the air quality outside my car is good. I can “breathe easily”.

I am comfortable with the fact that the environment has a good air day. But my windows stayed closed.

I don’t leave the outside world inside my car much anymore. You have become one of the majority, those passengers whose cars are a self-contained biosphere of industrially cooled air.

All around me, car booths roll, sealed against gale-force winds, paper-sailing, and sun-warmed winds outside their electric windows.

There are no elbows protruding from the driver’s windows, interlocking evidence indicating the presence of a human body attached. There is no sunny left forearm lounge above the hot white strip of metallic trim.

Children’s fingers do not vibrate and sway from the outside rear seat windows. No soft, wavy cheeks sending out toothy smiles to passing cars. The panes of glass have them all on them, and they sit tethered and quiet and not staring forward at anything.

This was not always the case. Before most cars were fitted with air conditioners, the outside was greeted inside our cars by powerful spinning from every window seat.

We waited impatiently for Dad to push the throttle just enough to stir the rushing winds against our faces; We’ve draped our eyelashes and curled our bangs into curly, curly hairballs. We opened our mouths, risking swallowing insects, to suck in as much air as homemade ice cream.

The pastures were past our noses, evoking “ewww-w’s” and “laughter.” Freshly tar-coated black roofs give off a pungent puff that we can almost taste. Dust and herbs mixed to create a scent we always associate with Sunday afternoon excursions on summer days. The smoke from my father’s standing cigarette in the foreground formed a trail of smoke heading towards the sky.

Insects jumped through our open windows, lighting up on the coils or in the hair. Grasshoppers were the worst. Not content with staying where they landed, the reddish-brown wanderers would quickly and unexpectedly jump from one screaming child to another.

The chaos prompted threats from my father that he would “stop this car if we don’t settle.”

Wasps would sometimes blow inside. Lazy and lethargic from the summer heat, they descended over our heads with their stick-legs dangling precariously near our faces. We knew not to hit…we hit our heads this way and that, praying that he would eventually find his tired way through the interior of the car and out the other side.

When it rained, Dad told us to roll up our windows. But when he was busy watching the road through the foggy, wiper-strewn windshield, we opened our windows far enough to push our arms out.

Dime-sized raindrops were pelting our skin like thumbtacks. We dared to turn our palms toward the sky and subject the thin, pale skin of our arms to delicious, painful blows.

The smell of rain permeated inside our cars and we almost sighed to smell it.

The open windows in our cars make us feel like life is navigating a double time. They gave us doses of smells, sounds and feelings that told us what the world had in store after rolling tires.

It was an adventure in breezy scraps – images for the senses other than the eyes.

I am calm and safe in my air conditioned car. The air that fills my lungs is free from pollution.

But the quality of life I have exchanged for this affirmation can only be measured by the sweet, vague memories of summer fragrance, and the days of traveling hand in hand with car windows flailing along the road.

Contact Robin Garrison Leach at

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