By Al Vinikour
When I was a little Hoosier attending grade school at Flint Lake (in Valparaiso, Indiana), I was always fascinated by books that described what then sounded like distant lands (primarily because they were). I always recall one book titled Faraway Places. I would read chapter upon chapter of foreign countries, and daydream about them. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to visit most of them during my lifetime – mostly on business, but whatever the reason, I saw them first-hand. Whenever I’d study a different country, I’d pore over maps of them so I had a clear vision of what they looked like. Then I’d delve deeper into their background, structure, people, etc.
Like everything else in the evolution of life, the old standards have given way to new ones. Now, instead of putting your mouth under the kitchen tap to get a drink of water we’re importing our water in bottles from France, Poland and even the Fiji Islands. A newer phenomenon finds that savvy youngsters and teenagers are beginning to learn about countries by the kinds of cars that are exported by them, and imported by us. Right now the roads are occupied by vehicles manufactured not only in the land of the free and the home of the brave, but from every continent except Antarctica, where EVERY day is a snow day. There may be seven degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon but naming one car from each continent’s combinations could fill up an entire day and burn out the central core of a Cray Super Computer.
For example, the first round could consist of: Ford F-150 (North America), VW Beetle (South America), Jaguar XJL (Europe), Holden Berlina (Australia), African Bulldog (Africa) and Hyundai Sonata (Asia).
There’s also the opportunity for sub-games as well. Just within Europe you can come up with vehicles from England, France, Germany, Italy and other countries where they don’t watch South Park in English. Granted, if you play this game for any length of time, you’ll invariably have to eliminate Africa from the catalog of countries because they have more ivory poachers than they do manufacturers of indigenous vehicles.
We’re in what will no doubt be an eternal global society, and that includes major manufacturing, like cars and trucks. Every country wants its own. Some of the expected big-time players will come from China, India and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Madagascar or the Seychelles want their own vehicular halo.
Ever the optimist, I’m think that all this diversity might be a good thing in educating the “yutes” to learn of their geographical surroundings. For instance, a future vehicle from Zambia might be named “Mutenden.” Human nature will tell you that some future captain of industry who’s sitting around the house smoking weed, eating Cheetos and watching Captain Kangaroo reruns may someday see the name “Mutenden” and wonder what it means. When he wakes up without a pounding headache, he may go to a dictionary, or even Wikipedia, and actually look up the word only to see it defined as the Zambian word for “peace.” This may lead to further research if he (or she) doesn’t happen to know where Zambia is (even though he or she probably mentally visited the place while coming off a high).
Right now it seems the only way kids learn about something like geography is if it happens to be part of a video game, and after the 8,000th time playing it some of the locales might sink in. But actually reverting back to the age-old practice of looking up something for background research could be the breakthrough academia has been searching and praying for since the dark days of “New Math.”
I know what you’re thinking; “Al, just where in hell do you come up with this crap?” I dunno. Maybe I’m still high.