It was damn hot in Thousand Oaks today. It was so hot it triggered a memory. What happened to vinyl car seats? Growing up, my dad drove a big, green 1973 Plymouth station wagon that had dark green VINYL bench seats in front and back. In the summer those vinyl seats heated up to, oh, I would guess, 10,000 freakin’ degrees Fahrenheit!!! It was as if the Sun itself had been sitting on those green vinyl seats just before we got in the car. You got an extra treat if you wore shorts. As you would get in the backseat of the station wagon, you would forget how scorching hot the vinyl seats were until the moment you sat down and the skin on the back of your thigh INSTANTLY singed itself to the car seat like a well-done charburger. “YEEEEEEEOOOOOOOWWWWW”!! I would scream as I tried to jump up as fast as I could.
Then, how about the big, 5-inch square metal seatbelt buckle? How hot did the buckle get? Yes, I know, wearing a seatbelt was a foreign concept back then in the mid-1970’s. In fact, for many years my dad was a devout practitioner of the “Mexican Seatbelt” restraint system. You know—my dad would always active the Mexican Seatbelt when he abruptly slammed on the brakes, held onto the top of steering wheel with his left hand, and then simultaneously outstretched his right arm all the way across the front seat to make sure I didn’t get a tattoo of the dashboard on my face. All in a split-second. Ah, the good old days before mandatory seatbelts and airbags.
Okay, back to grabbing the hot seatbelt buckle. You know the one. Each weighed 5 pounds of solid metal and you could kill somebody with it if you really wanted to (if only you could remove it from the car!). It was a big, chrome square with a small metal square in the middle of it that you had to use both thumbs in order to press the button down far enough to release the seatbelt. Well, that sucker easily heated up to about 20,000 freakin’ degrees Fahrenheit!!!
Dad: ¡Siéntense y apláquense Cabrones!
Me: Dad, prende el aire acondicionado. ¡Esta muy caliente! ¡Me estoy quemando!
Dad: Que?? ¡Como! ¡El aire acondicionado es MALISIMO para el cuerpo!! Todo lo artificial no es bueno para ti. No hay nada mejor que el aire natural!! Abre la ventana mejor.
To this day, my dad will not turn on the air conditioner in the car. He just won’t do it no matter how hot it is outside or inside the car. I never understood it. For years we drove around in the summer roasting like hot dogs inside an oven on wheels. Well, an oven with all four windows rolled down with hot sweaty kids inside. I know for a fact that my father was not the only Mexican who would rather roast than turn on the air conditioner in the car. What is up with Mexicans and thinking that the air conditioner is bad for you?