What happened to the Buick people?

Harry Drabik

October on the North Shore used to be the month of the Buick people. It was a sedative time of year when pale toned Buicks carried pairs of gray heads at modest cruising speed. These couples, in their golden silver haired years, would share a budget lunch and carefully place leftovers in a bag for later. These were settled people with a lifestyle on a rhythm comparable to the falling leaves they came to admire and the white-wing flocks of snowbirds stirred from the roadside as they passed.  Nothing was hurried. Little was wasted. The Buickers were an annual migration that rarely left more than an accidental crumb. It is doubtful any Buick person ever asked for loud music or considered a brewery as a place to have dinner. Theirs was the soft spoken wind from Detroit of old where the gods of industry once ruled.

The six and eight pipe battle cruiser Buicks are gone to collectors. Modern Buick people settle primly and not all that comfortably into mini Buicks that look much like all other makes on the road. There is sameness even in color as if everyone over a certain age has been ordered to be practical and act ashamed of any hue unnatural or bolder than a mottled whole food apple. Once confident, the Buick person is now uncertain; so uncertain that they might not recall who they are or if they are alive unless beckoned by a cell announcing an incoming message of profound import. In the eatery where one sits for the view the soup spoon in mid-air is quickly set in the soup. All is ignored but the urgent need to appease the chiming intruder and tell it “Hello, is that you?” If you’re not where you’re at when you’re there or you must address some other place when you’re away then why are you there? Why not stay where you were? The Buick people are infested with the same techno virus as the younger generations, and none of them much the better for it except in poverty of being in the present.

The slow parade of the former Buick people is being replaced by a speedier flock of emotive migrants who drive rapidly, with focused determination, in shiny adventure cars with plastic toys strapped to the roof. The cars bear exciting names in bold relief plastic chrome scrolls that leave no doubt real and true adventure rides on four all season magical rubber carpets. How can quest and satisfaction possibly out speed the perfectly equipped and thought out machine? Inside the carefully packed adventure capsule is enough Gore fabric and whole food nutrition to face any challenge encountered on a busy highway with watering holes and scenic attractions aplenty. One result of these many adventures is the Ethernet full of pics of people posed standing still next to or amid other non-moving objects as concrete proof “I was there” so therefore I must exist. I have pics of myself appearing happy to show anyone in doubt. These are viewed often but need frequent updating and expansion as the circle of places to be seen standing still doing nothing spreads outward in the expanding universe. But then, doing nothing is the aim of tourism and vacationing. Even a quite active outdoor get-away is in essence a passive occupation following blazed ways and making use of what others built or created. The illusion of having done something is, however, necessary for wellbeing as the assurance your life-giving kale is wholly organic and not manufactured by crop or in a mass-market appeal. We might suggest the Buick people remain as before but in new conveyance and costume.

The old Buick corps were boring, I must admit, kind of mid America’s version of flat latex paint. The new Buickers are less dull, but only as a latex paint produced in gloss. Otherwise they are about the same, but in more of a hurry. I watched one mob hustling determinedly stop along one of the flatter sections of 61 on two wheel steeds in their mountain bike livery. I guess they were disappointed finding a mountain down there by the water. Eight heavily breathing mountain seekers took a break by breaking out small shapes to practice ritual cell speak. If I had a friend who’d sliver me in during a break in her/his active schedule I’d be a better friend and turn off my phone and allow them fuller scope to get on with what they’re doing, whatever that is. Is it just me being difficult, or is it actually rather downcasting to get face page updates for the sender’s hundred other close personal associates? I sense an overload of the friendship quota, but maybe I’m being severe. A hundred dear close friends, why not? But in the congregate is there one or two who’d class as close friend? Does a mass of names make up for the shortage of the few who matter? The two gray heads in the Buick at least had one other dear enough to travel the road. In the group of eight all hurrying to text-up with others is anyone close to anyone or are they all alone together, trendy but isolated like live models of the bike gear that has them wear the name of someone/something else.

As autumn (this year belatedly) kicks leafs free of trees the colored leavings remind me that in theory I love the human race that in many particulars they seem better raked into piles to be composted or conflagrated. Is this cruel of me or realistic? Secretly, I won’t tell, who feels the same more often than they say? Don’t I, one asks, love the panoply of human diversity? I do, but from a distance, preferably more distance than less. Feigning jest I told someone recently “I lack arms big enough to embrace all humanity. I’ll take a few. You can have the rest.” The advocate of diversity I spoke to didn’t much appreciate either my humor or the form of my diversity. Cars and styles change color and make but the people in them are much the same seeking what can be attained only by not pursuing it.