Friday, October 23, 2020

Lemon Drop, la Deux Chevaux, 2CV

By and large I have to admit that most people seem to like me.  Except when everyone hates me.  Which would be when I am driving my 1981 2CV. 

AKA  Deux Chevaux  (French for 2 Horsepower) or Lemon Drop. I can’t say that I blame them. Lemon Drop stinks. The garage has worked on the engine, completely replaced the chassis, she has all sorts of new this and new that, and she still stinks. I’m never stuck behind her, but Tom says it’s just about unbearable -and a little bit smokey. (I have to hope that I am making up for my flagrant polluting by my almost non-existent use of any other combustable engines.)

Possibly worse than stinking is that she is slow. A 2CV rules the road - until you can manage to pass it. These cars were never made to be sporty. They were conceived in the 1940’s for farmers and built to replace work horses and carts - 2 work horses to be exact. And they still only go about the speed of 2 horses. Well a bit faster, but if you have the misfortune to be behind one in a modern car you wouldn’t think so.

You know what?  When I am tootling along down the road in Lemon Drop I don’t care that nobody likes me. Tant pis - too bad as the french say.

Me, I’m in pokey driver heaven.

Routine is a big part of driving Lemon Drop. You have to be one with the car or you’re going to find yourself where you do not want to be.

Starting her up is all about listening and gas pedal work. Not enough gas she stutters out. Too much she’s flooded out. Her latest trick is that she gets going and then just when you think you’ve coddled her to the running stage she lets out a big fart and punks out. She must feel better after a good flatulant explosion because the next turn of the key and she starts right up. 

A 2CV is like a Volkswagen in that they have their very own distinctive sound. No need to turn your head to know what vehicle is passing. But, you do look because you have to know what color this 2CV is and note any small differences from your 2CV.

I have yet to master getting the old girl into first gear. I reverse out the drive and grind into first.  From a stop I stutter into first gear. The gearing is so low that I could probably just proceed from second and leave first gear for all-terrain farming adventures. The rest of the gears are easy to hear and to get in and out of. The gear shift is like nothing an American has ever seen. The shifter comes out towards you from the dash board. There isn’t a lot of cabin space in a 2CV. I can’t imagine how anyone longer than I am can fold up to get in, unfold to get out, or move their legs and arms enough to change gears and hit the gas.

I never pull out onto the road until I am sure there is not a car to be seen in either direction. 

Putting the pedal to the metal I might just get to 70 km per hour -75km/h- if I really push her and if I am going down hill. Nope, she doesn’t even get a good rolling speed as she heads down hill. I think if I pushed just that tiny bit more that it would take to get to 80km/h (the posted speed limit) Lemon Drop would just burst into a rolling bowl of nuts and bolts with a windshield wiper or two thrown in, eyeball shaped headlamps flopping around hilariously. I’d be all legs and arms flailing in the swirling mess.

As opposed to the driver chomping at the bit behind me I feel like I’m zipping right along. Wind swirls in through the defrost vent under the windshield. Air whistles in the windows that go up, yep up, not down. I look like a flamenco if I stop to talk to someone. Summer days I cruise along even “faster”. Well at least the sensation of speed seems more exhilarating. It’s convertible time. To pop the top you roll the canvas back like a sardine can lid and attach it with various straps and hooks. I can’t forget any of them or things will start to spring.

It’s hard to say what I like best about Lemon Drop, the steering wheel or the fact that I finally have a convertible. I guess I’d have to say the steering wheel because every single time I drive out there is a sense of euphoria as I swoop around corners. She does not hug the road. Think more the old fashioned baby buggies or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She swoops and floats. Driving down the road in Lemon Drop takes me back to the days when I would float in a tube down the New River bobbing and swaying to the rhythm of the current. The road flows out before me. No hurries no worries. Just let the world pass on by. The ole girl and I will get there -eventually.

Funny this side of me that is a gearhead. I just wish I had figured that out earlier and learned a bit of car mechanics. Knowing how to wrench the ole jalopy could come in handy as I pop, stutter, and buoy on down the road.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Positive Outcomes

In the early 1800’s Paris was not the Paris that we know today. She was a grand city started in Roman times, rambling through the middle ages never having a central plan for her growth just evolving higgledy piggledy.

The Medieval sunless, airless passageways were choked with heavy wagons, carriages, horses and especially people cheek to jowl. On a good rainy day “cleansing” streams ran down the middle of the streets to sweep away all sorts of waste, including human, into the inadequate sewers. The sewers ran into the river Seine. Parisians got their drinking water from the Seine.

In the early 1800’s the population of Paris doubled to 1 million as peasants in search of jobs poured in from the impoverished countryside. In the early 1800’s cholera was lurking. Epidemics are opportunistic. Cholera was unleashed and swept through the rambling, overcrowded streets.

By 1832 people were dying in ever increasing numbers and with increasing speed. “Victims were said to look like corpses even before they died and some had ice-cold tongues. The cure of the day did little to arrest the spread of the disease: a hot bath infused with vinegar, salt and mustard, some lime tea and a sensible diet. “With these precautions, we need not worry about an epidemic,” an official declared with wild optimism in August 1832.” 19,000 citizens died in six months.

The city and it’s chaotic organizational structure were putting people in the path of the pandemic.

There was little that could be done as cholera swept through the city. When the outbreak was finally under control the city organizers rallied to plan on how to keep from repeating this humanitarian disaster. How to prevent disease was a driving force in urban planning. What would it take to keep the population safe and sound? Wider streets and sidewalks came as a result of the cholera, as well as developing a proper sewage system and running water in all housing.

To say the least change wasn’t easy. Neighborhoods were flattened, buildings cut in half and construction dust floated over the city for years.

By 1870 Paris had the sunniest, most beautiful, and functional streets ever seen. The elegant and practical results were copied throughout the world.

Today Paris has 2,100 kilometers of sewer tunnels and the capability of processing more than 2 million cubic meters of wastewater every day. The streets are swept and washed early every morning while the city gears up for another bustling day.

Are there lessons and examples from this historic event about ways we can work together for the better of all? Are we searching for positive outcomes from our current pandemic and humanitarian crisis?

——and yes Paris and all of France is confronting a new opportunistic infectious disease. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. 

—-“The Epidemic That Shaped a City”, The Bugle May 2020
----all images copied from Google Images