JF Ptak Science Books
If I was an alien (of the outer-space variety) looking at the United States, I’d find it difficult not to assume that the biological units scurrying around the place were not put there to service the automobile. Cars get born, then put on display, then selected and driven to their new home. They get washed, and fed, and sometimes have their own places to sleep at night in their very own structure with their caretakers housed nearby. They get taken out for airs in the morning and evening, resting while the humans labor all day to make enough money for their care and maintenance and feeding. In the evening, they get brought back home and allowed to rest further. They respond directly to inputs only and give no unsolicited response: sort of like cats. Fantastically large allowances are made for cars, humans going so far as to remove life- and atmospheric-sustaining biological units such as trees and good dirt so that the car can be taken virtually anywhere in the country on a path made specifically for them. These pathways, which are padded and smooth, have ancillary bits attached to them so that the humans may walk beside them—houses and such are all connected to these paths to more easily enable the people to have access and maintain the car. And, at the end of the day, humans breathe in the very excrement and excretia produced by the cars. Placed under a microscope, the whole thing might resemble a biological unit, the cars being its very blood, everything else present to contain and move it.
These images from the Illustriete Zeitung (Leipzig, issue 4484, pp 239-240) for November 1930 speak to the exact issue of how to care for the now ever-present automobile. Entitled “Wie Bringe Ich Meinen Kraftwagen Unter?”, the short article (by the engineer Botho von Romer of Munchen) addresses the need of what to do with cars at bedtime—where do we put them? One answer was this spectacular carpark (“Garagenhof”) high rise—seventeen floors of parking (with two more underground), serviced by a variety of elevators, pointing out that varieties of this structure already existed in Chicago and New York
There was also the possibility of vast masses of sunken garages, their entrance way screwed into the earth leading to tunnels and networked warehouses where the cars could be safely deposited and removed from city streets. There were also these two versions of the simple above-ground garages and parking lots: the apartment block gives over the entire interior area to individual parking and garages (doing away with any greenspace), while the massive semi-cloverleaf design is made for nothing else in mind than to park the cars in the four semi-centers.
By 1930 the production of the automobile had been revolutionized to such an extent that virtually anyone with a job and less than five kids could actually afford a car. It is interesting to note that at the average price of say 30 cents a gallon for gasoline (in the U.S.A.) that folks 80 years ago were paying pretty more per gallon (adjusted via CPI, roughtly $4.25 iva the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator) than we are paying now at $2.75/gallon (in my mountain city at the far end of the pipeline).