Dec 27, 2012

The Dreaded Middle Hump


  I suppose each generation has its right to lament how the next generation has it so much easier than they did. I thought about this as I watched my children sprawled in various positions in the van as we made our latest road trip, and listened to the complaints of how one of them needed to sit on a particular side in order to reach the charging port for their IPod, and another one moaned that she had no comfortable place to lay her pillow. I think that they should all be happy that at least they didn’t have to ride sitting over the middle hump.

  Since most cars were rear wheel drive when I was a kid, nearly all of them had a raised section that ran down the center of the floorboard to accommodate the drive shaft. We called this uncomfortable middle section “the hump”, and most of us avoided it as much as possible. It was made worse by the fact you were often squeezed in by the people sitting on either side of you, namely older siblings.

  Growing up the smallest of three kids made me the bottom of the totem pole as seating order went. Before my sister and brother left the nest, I had two choices as to where I would sit in the car; the middle hump in the front or the middle hump in the back. I think it was Mom who decided it was safer for me to sit in the middle front. Conventional wisdom these days says that Mom was wrong, strictly from a vehicle safety standpoint. Mom wasn’t thinking of vehicle safety as much as she was my potential bodily harm caused by fed up siblings. The front seat hump was tough because the only place I could put my feet was on Mom’s side. God forbid I ever put my feet on Dad’s side while he was driving, and there were also the awkward obstacles of the CB radio and the eight track tape player to contend with. It could be awkward when someone other than Mom was riding in the passenger side, because I felt constrained to prop my feet up on the hump and ran the risk of my shin knocking “Tammy Wynette’s Greatest Hits” into play mode.

  Even after Dad purchased the first of many station wagons and my sister married and moved, I still found myself squeezed between grown up traveling companions quite often. My only deliverance from hump seating were those rare  occasions when we didn’t have the back of the station wagon loaded to the hilt, and I could sit in the flip up rear seat. The rear seat was like heaven to me. I always liked watching where we had just been fade quickly from view. I could pretend I was a tail gunner on a bomber, or a spy running from the bad guys with lots of imaginary weapons at my disposal. (The oil slick was my favorite.) You couldn’t have fun times like this while sitting over the hump, no matter how vivid an imagination you had.

  Probably the worst driving episode of my young life involved riding over the hump with a full bladder through West Virginia before the interstate was finished. There I was, simultaneously trying to control my young bladder and avoiding Miss Wynette sticking out of the eight track player as Dad careened through the West Virginia hills in search of some place with a bathroom that was open for business on a Sunday. My sister wasn’t helping matters much by pointing out every waterfall, lake or stream along the way. Thanks, Sis. I finally had to go in the bushes behind an abandoned service station, and once back in the car had to resist the temptation to give Tammy one good kick out of frustration.

  These days, I am thankful to be in the driver’s seat the majority of the time, and for my children’s sake I am grateful that the middle hump is no longer an issue for them to contend with. I just wish they could appreciate this fact before they complain any further about the lack of pillow space, or the lack of accessory ports available in our vehicle.

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