Thursday, April 9, 2009

You got your ears on?

I saw this ad in an old 1975 Sports Illustrated and it rekindled my bewilderment at 1970’s America’s fascination with the CB, citizens band radio.

On several occasions, my brother and I have pondered at great length, why 1970’s America was so enamored of the CB Radio?

For some indiscernible reason, everyday Americans living in populated, suburban areas felt the need to have a CB radio in their enormous cars. As a child, I could remember these in the cars that belonged to my friends’ parents. These people were middle class accountants, housewives, office professionals. Why the CB? Who did they need to talk to? They were never in roadside trouble. These people never ventured far from home. What the hell?

On one hand, CB’s were like an early internet chat room. It provided a medium wherein one could anonymously ask the age-old question: is there anybody out there?

But communication was perhaps, less of a motivating factor. It was my brother who eventually loosely concluded that in this decade’s renowned malaise brought about the success of the CB. There existed a budding anti-government sentiment, a dulled, harmless hangover from the anti-establishment radical sixties. The crisis of confidence among the general public made every man a relaxed renegade, a lone wolf with a handle…even though he might be undertaking an urbane ritual like hitting the drive through liquor store on his way back from the hardware store.

The pop culture heroes of our era have become magnanimous, gorgeous superhuman television doctors or crime scene investigators. We worship talk show hosts who boast their own magazines. We are enamored of alleged experts casting judgment – acerbic American Idol judges or supernannies. When overpaid CEO’s who’ve had every opportunity handed to them on a platter retire, we run out to buy their autobiographical Rosetta-stone success story. Please, Christ Jesus, just send us someone to tell us everything that is wrong with us and everything that is untouchably amazing about them.

Not so in 1975. An absence of direction and an absence of American hubris led to a bizarre glorification of laid-back redneck culture. Although there was still a counter-cultural undertow left over from the 1960’s, subversion had become supplanted by folksy easygoin’ individualism.

Of course, we all know that this laid-back slack-jack anti-government vibe would metastasize into Reagan’s America and later adopt the dangerous rhetoric of Gingrich – government is your enemy. But maybe, just maybe, as Joe Lawnmower was busting 35mph heading down Elm Street, he could cradle that CB in his hand and feel untouchable.

Ideas for my ‘handle’ (should I decide to install a CB radio in my 4 cylinder Mazda).

1. Commutin’ Fever
2. Blazin’ Middle Management Mal-aizin’
3. Beige Accountin’ Lightnin’
4. Dick Milhous-a-nixon

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