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Seatbelts & Stranger Things

In our August 1, 2022 episode, Will, Jon and I discussed whether or not children today should be living the way the kids do in the Stranger Things series, with sparse parental supervision, long days away from home on a variety of adventures, helmet-free as they pedal their well-used bicycles. As we reflected on our personal childhood experiences with freedom of exploration, our conversation fluctuated (as it usually does) between serious and silly, and while laughter does normally come easily to me, this time I was overcome with mirth at a memory of peril, prompted by Jon’s recognition of a similar life experience. I feel compelled to share that memory in further detail.

My best guess at my age in this event is around 8 years old, and my father was on duty delivering my sister and I to school that day. My father’s vehicle of choice was a two-door red Chevy pickup truck, and while this particular one had many, many miles and dents on it like its predecessors, it had one notable feature in the form of a passenger door that would not latch shut. My father’s solution for this issue was to tie a rope to the inner door handle, and then grab the rope whenever the door began to flap open. At this time I should note that the never-used seat belts in *any* truck of his, including this one, were actually unusable, lost as they were somewhere down below the seat cushions amongst stray tools, pencils, and ketchup packets.

Undoubtedly we were running late for school, and so with my sister in the middle and myself next to the broken door, my dad pulled away from the curb and swung a tight U-turn. As we rounded the curve, I, in my friction-free polyester school uniform, slid across the leather seat towards the now-flapping-open passenger door, grabbing futilely for any sort of hand-hold to slow my progress towards the asphalt. I’m not sure who noticed first, my sister or my father, but one of them managed to get a grip onto me and pull me back into the cab of the truck. At this point my father instructed us to grab the rope and lay it across our laps so that we could attempt to keep the door shut (as well as to presumably give us a false sense of security). I don’t recall the rest of the ride that morning, and while I may not have been in any danger from the Upside Down, I’m fairly certain I remained terrified of tumbling out upside-down onto the street.

I’ve been laughing about this event for most of my life since then, and childhood freedom is great and all, but I’m a big fan of seat belts.

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