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Milton's 'Maginations

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Milton's 'Maginations

Speed Demons #10
March 1958


It was Joe who told me the sad news when we met for lunch at our usual restaurant off the avenue. He had a sad look on his usually happy face.

"Ben called me up this morning and said that Milton was hurt in an auto accident. I spent half an hour on the phone trying to get his home. As far as I can get the story from Ben, who got it from Mike, Milton is in bad shape. I think his car was caught in between a twenty ton truck going right and a giant trailer making a left turn. They flattened out Milton's car."

After lunch I made a hurry trip to the phone booth. Couldn't get Milton's house. So I decided to pay him a surprise visit. An hour later I was in the living room. Milton's wife told me the news.

"He's alive and probably will be back to work, soon. The phone was out of order so that's why you couldn't get us. Milton went for an X-ray check up this morning."

He did look a bit pale. Yet there was an eagerness in his eyes.

"You write those Hot Rod stories," he smiled. "Know something? I just changed my mind as a result of this auto accident. The most dangerous driver in the world is always the other fellow. Here I was minding my business. My car was parked. Just starting to pull out. Then smack-bang-crash! This fellow hits me in the rear. So I have been reading more about Hot Rods. They really are careful, those fellows behind the wheel."

"They certainly are," I replied. "Did you know that as far back as 1948, Hot Rodders have been actively supporting the National Safety Council. One West Coast Hot Rod Organization went so far as to enlist 1000 memberships into the National Safety Council in the sincere interest of seeking a chance to demonstrate their concern for, and their adherence to, the principles of SAFETY.

Regulations of organized Hot Rod Groups have long been based upon sound observance of safety precautions. That includes such items as auto seat belts, protective helmets, and roll bars. Did you know that safety inspections of participant vehicles both as a requirement of club membership and as an eligibility for competition have been commonplace for years. Yet there still are states that require no vehicle inspection whatsoever for operation on the public streets.

And what is most important in regard to SAFETY, is that these Hot Rodders know how to drive. It may come as a shock to you and to a lot of others, but there are many people behind wheels who still have a lot to learn."

"I agree with you," replied Milton. "Got some ideas you may be able to use for a story or article about automobiles. Call it a bit of light humor or sheer nonsense with some common sense thrown in for good measure. I was thinking about some inventions that ought to be made to give maximum safety for drivers. Want to hear them?"

"Go ahead," I said. "Too bad I didn't bring my tape recorder with me. But they say I have almost a perfect machine memory."

"Somebody should invent a REPELER," began Milton. "Remember back in your school days when the Science teacher showed us how a magnet works with iron filings. Also we learned that like poles attract and unlike repel. Or maybe it was the other way around. Like poles repel and unlike attract. Leave this to the magnets. I am sure they know what to do. Now follow me. Every car must have some kind of a magnet attached to it. Just when the other fellow is about to hit you, the magnet goes into action.

Suddenly instead of crashing into you, the other car is repelled. Wonderful idea, isn't it? This way you can never have an accident. Now you see if you can find anything wrong with that idea?"

I held my chin in my right hand for fully two minutes and three seconds. No doubt about it! Milton had a wonderful idea. Whether it would work was totally immaterial.

"One objection I can think of at the given moment," I pointed out. "So your car repels the other car that is about to crash into you, but he almost crashes into another car. This car also has the magnet attached to it. The third car repels the second car and sends it back to you. Now what happens? Your magnet starts to work again. It repels the second car. Maybe this could keep up for years. The poor fellow in that second car goes back and forth like the fellow that is trying to steal second to third base in baseball. Back and forth he goes, and the two basemen get closer and closer."

"Could you do better?" Milton challenged me.

That hurt my ego. I had a favorite idea of my own and this was the time to try it on a dear friend.

"Ever hear about my own invention?" I asked. And without waiting for an answer, continued speaking, "It is also designed to meet the problem of the car that is about to crash into your own car. Every car has on the dash board a special Radar Screen. You can see all the cars coming and going in any direction. What is most important is that you can see the cars that are hiding on side roads. You are going at the legal speed limit of fifty miles an hour. Suddenly you see a little car on your Radar Screen. It is about to smash into you. But don't worry. Nothing can happen. You, your car, and your family are saved from destruction."

"How?" demanded Milton, breathlessly. "Right next to the Radar Screen is a little special eraser," I explained. "In a fraction of a second your left hand lifts this eraser up and touches the image of the car on the Radar Screen. Then presto, it happens! When the image vanishes, the other car also does the same. Since it is no longer there, nothing can happen. Wonderful, isn't it?"

Milton eyed me up as though he was about to admit that my invention was superior to his magnet idea. Then he shook his head from side to side which meant a big NO.

"Your idea also has a fault. Suppose the other fellow is looking at his Radar Screen. He sees your car, but he gets the eraser first. Then, presto, where are you? You and your car have vanished. And it is even possible that both of you go for the erasers at the same time. No crash, but the two cars and the occupants are no longer there."

I had to admit that this was a vital defect with my own idea. Milton had another idea and began to speak about it at once.

One great cause of accidents is attributed to what has become known commonly as the Back-Seat Driver. The Back-Seat Driver can be your wife, your mother-in-law, a friend, or even a stranger. For thirty years you have been driving all kinds of cars under a variety of tough conditions. Never even had a little accident. The Back-Seat Driver starts talking: 'You didn't see that car on the left. It almost smashed you.' 'You really don't know how to drive.' 'The fellow on the left wants to pass. Let him.' 'Stop being so tense while you drive.' 'At the rate you are going, this car will be a wreck.'

All this unnerves you. Creates a tension that makes you accident prone. What can be done with this Back-Seat Driver? There are a variety of gadgets that should be put on the market. A cheap one would be a pair of ear stuffers. You put them in your ears and you never hear a word that is said. The second gadget would be a concealed tape recorder with just two words repeated every six seconds: Shut up! The third gadget is an invisible tent that comes down from the roof of the car. It envelopes the Back-Seat Driver. Next a large spool of knitting yarn goes all over this person. The Back-Seat Driver can no longer worry about the driver. Finally there is a gadget that opens the floor of the car. Out drops a kiddy car with the Back-Seat Driver on it. You go happily on your way. Want to market any of these gadgets?"

"Wonderful," I at once conceded. "We could go into business together at once. I am working on a new kind of crash helmet. If you are thrown clear out of your car, the standard helmet will protect your head. But when can happen if twenty-six cars are headed your way? My crash helmet has an inverted parachute in it which opens. Instead of landing down on the road you go up into the atmosphere and sail gently to your destination. If they could be sold for a price under ten dollars each, we should be able to find a large market for them."

Milton was beginning to finger his left ear. This was a sign that worry had started in his brain.

"Anything wrong?" I pleaded.

"I too have been working on a new angle for the crash helmet," he sighed. "Mine would have a set of invisible springs attached to the outside. If the driver lands on the road, he hasn't any problem. He just bounces up and down until he lands at his destination. If we both manufacture our particular helmets we will be competitors."

"Coffee and cake on the table," interrupted the gentle voice of Milton's wife. Come in and get it and forget about your inventions. My parakeet has been listening to everything you said and is now saying: Wanna drive a car! Wanna drive a car!"

—THE END—

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