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car

A car (1885- ) is a means of private road transport. It is also known as an automobile or motor car. A car can hold one to six people and go about fifteen times faster than someone on foot. Cars replace the horse-drawn carriages of old. Most households in America have at least one. Outside of certain cities, like New York or New Orleans, it is next to impossible to get by in America without one.

I did not intend to write about cars today, but I just found this beautiful picture of one – an Aston Martin DB5 from 1963, the sort that James Bond 007 drove.

Cars move by means of a motor that is built inside. That is why they are sometimes call motor cars. Current motors burn oil which moves the parts of the motor, which in turn moves the wheels.

In America the car might have remained a luxury for the rich but for two things:

  1. Henry Ford worked out how to make them cheap enough for ordinary people.
  2. The government built a system of roads for cars across the country.

Ford’s famous car was his black Model T, which his company made from 1908 to 1927. It had the power of twenty horses. At first it sold for 1800 crowns ($22,000 in current dollars), less than half the price of other cars. By the 1920s Ford was able to sell his cars for less than a 1000 crowns. He had cut the price of a car to a fourth of what it was.

Ford had done for the car what Gutenberg had done for the book.

This in turn has had at least three side effects:

  1. suburbia
  2. polluted air
  3. the teenager

You might think that with cars people would spend less time getting from one place to another, that it would save a lot of time. Not so. Instead cities have become much larger and take up more space, so now it takes just as much time to get around. But where before people had to live in the city close to work, now they can live farther away in what was once the countryside but, because of the car, has now become suburbia: half-city, half-country -d it has a lot of trees and grass, but it also has houses, stores and roads everywhere too.

But although more people live outside the city, the air has become polluted from the smoke coming from all those cars. It is not as bad as it was thirty years ago – cars have been improved to run more cleanly – but it is still worse than a hundred years ago.

The car has also created the teenager – someone who is still too young to live on his own apart from his parents, but old enough to drive a car and get into trouble. This has led to a great loosening of morals as far as sex goes. The car, though, is not alone on this one – birth control and the weakening of the Christian faith have also played their part.

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bus

A bus is a public means of road transport.

The first bus appeared in France in 1826. It was called a voiture omnibus or a “carriage for everyone”. A good way of putting it. In English this was shortened first to omnibus and now it is just plain old bus. A bus is sometimes called a coach.

A bus goes along the road from one bus stop to the next. At each stop you can get on or off the bus, paying the driver. The stops that a given bus serves are fixed and it spends all day going from one stop to the next. If you miss the bus, you can wait at the stop for the next one to come along.

Most buses have stops just in one city, but some buses go between cities and some, like Greyhound, go clear across the country.

A bus, however, does not give you the freedom of a private car: it only goes between its stops. It is, however, a lot cheaper than a car and makes sense if you are always going to the same place every day, like work or school. If you live in a city with a good system of buses then you might be able to get by without a car at all.

I take a bus to work. This saves me money by not having to get a second car for my family. It also allows me to sleep or read or write instead of driving.

Current buses are like a large room on wheels. The room has many seats and large windows. Most buses seat between twenty to sixty people. The bus has a motor built in that gives it enough power to move fifteen times faster than someone on foot.

What makes a bus a bus is not how it looks or how it is made or how it is powered — the first buses were drawn by horses, after all. What makes a bus a bus is the sort of service it provides.

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