A strange topic, I know but it does have something to do with my thoughts today. Really. Tonight, from my apartment I can see a steady stream of automobile headlights from one window and from another I can see tail lights. These streams of white (with some exceptions) and red can easily mesmerize me and send me into remembrances of times past. This I suppose is akin to Marcel Proust (1871-1922), the French author of A la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Lost Time), a seven-volume novel of over 4,000 pages! The basis of these volumes is Proust’s memory going into high gear when he smelled his morning madeleines. Fret not, however over one madeleine, but probably hundreds of them because the series was written over several years and published in volumes beginning in 1913 until 1927. You notice, no doubt, that the last three volumes were published posthumously. So much for lost time.
Getting back to head and tail lights. Years ago, I was able to identify any car. This was not a great feat because in the 60’s and 70’s, there weren’t that many different kinds of cars. One could get to know the cars by their head and tail lights. Each year’s model always had an inventive change on either the head or tail light or both. I remember falling in love with the splendiferous tail light fins of Cadillacs. One night, waiting in traffic with my dad, I noted that the car ahead of us was a Thunderbird with long horizontal tail lights. I further commented that in the next few years, if tail lights were to stretch any further, they will soon form one tail light. Imagine that!
When I was in school in Paris, it was not uncommon to see yellow head lights, or fog lights. In the Ville Lumière, bright head lights were not needed so a yellow glow led the motorist’s way down Parisian streets without blinding pedestrians or oncoming drivers. I saw some of the yellow head lights here from window the other night. To say the least, like Proust’s Pavlovian conditioned-response to madeleines, I responded to yellow head lights. The yellow lights are peaceful beacons of the night street, very much unlike today’s bright HID High Intensity Discharge), or LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights. Yes, I googled the aforementioned details.
I even noticed the other night, when being picked up at the airport, my sensitivity to car lights when I noticed that our car lights cast a blue shadow on the cars ahead of us. I queried to see if the driver’s car had, in fact, blue lights and he responded affirmatively. Back in the late 60’s, I never would have guessed there would be blue head lights.
It’s interesting how a room with a view can wake up memories. Tonight, as the car lights surge during rush hour then will die away I am reminded of a similar ebb and flow…the title of a popular soap opera, ‘so are the days of our lives.’