The car pulled out in front of me and stood out from the rest of the traffic like the proverbial sore thumb. I followed it up the long road towards the village, conscious of how different it looked. Neither veteran nor vintage, it was simply an older model Volvo… nothing special, not that old either; but while all the other cars on the road, including my own display all the seductive curves of a beauty contest, the Volvo still sported the angularity of … well, not so very long ago, when I thought about it.
It struck me that it is only over the past decade, really, that cars have moved into this aerodynamic voluptuousness. Even then, the change has been such a gradual shift, with cars of all ages on the roads, that we barely take any notice. It was only seeing this one against the backdrop of so many others that made it stand out from the crowd at all.
I was surprised to realise that I had grown used to the seeing curves. I hadn’t particularly liked the design departure when it had been introduced. The rounded contours didn’t look ‘right’ to someone who had grown up in a world of automotive angles and fins. The only really curvy cars were things like the Morgan… or the E-Type… vehicles whose shape fills me with driverly lust. Most standard family cars were less wanton and more straitlaced in their proportions.
How long, I wondered, had it taken for the change to settle into our minds as ‘normal’? At what point had ‘novel’ become ‘usual’? And isn’t it incredible how adaptable we are as a species? Any one of us who looks back over our lifetime… whatever our age… can see how much the world has changed for us, even in a few brief decades. The lives of men are short, no more than a speck of dust on the evolutionary timescale, yet we handle the rapidity of change with barely a raised eyebrow.
I find that amazing.
I was born before Uri Gagarin went into space… before Armstrong stood on the moon. When most phone calls were made from the red phone box by using a round dial and long before modern computers changed our world. I remember so many changes… yet adapting to them seems to leave no trace in memory. We just do.
It was borne home just how quickly strange becomes normal as I started to set up my new phone. Very different from the last phone… it Does Stuff. I’ll even be able to access the sites my computer won’t let me! And it does it much faster. In fact, it appears to be faster than my PC. And I don’t have clue how to get it set up… except, actually, I do. When did that happen? How come?
I mean, I’ve always kept up with technology as far as my means would allow, ever since I got hooked on the possibilities. But when did being clueless become being competent? And I didn’t even notice…
That is pretty incredible. Not me being able to press a non-existent button on a flat glass screen … the human capacity to adapt to and benefit from change. Perhaps it is that, rather than our famously opposable thumb that has allowed our species such evolutionary success?
On the down-side, it does mean we are probably far quicker than we should be to ‘accept’ the negatives of our world… the political finagling, the socio-ecomonic problems that ought to bother us far more than they tend to in daily life. We’ve got used to violence and to the dumbed down varieties of mass entertainment.
On the other hand, it just shows how quickly humanity could adapt to a better way of living, and how easily peace and equality could slip into the conscious mind as ‘normal’ if we can ever manage to attain it.
Either way… I was just another of those great realisations. Humanity has such potential…. I wonder what we’ll do with it next?