Feeling My Age at the Chicago Auto Show

Posted February 14, 2012 by jimhigley

I recently spent a day at the Chicago Auto Show with my son – who is turning 16. He’s feeling pretty grown-up these days. I’m feeling frazzled. Read on:

It used to be, when I’d take the kids to the Chicago Auto Show, I’d feel exhilarated. Bedazzled. Young, Sleek. Bright. Super-charged.

The other day when I took my youngest son to this year’s version of the Show, I just felt old.

It wasn’t the Show’s fault. It still delivered all the excitement of the newest and best, the hottest colors, great music and tempting food. And the models (the human type) continue to amaze me with their carnival-carny-like stamina as they enticed people to listen to the newest greatest, techno-terms. All of which mean nothing to me.

Nope. I felt old for another reason.

My youngest son, you see, is turning 16 this week. A driver’s license – the final one to be issued to a kid in my house – is hours away. And as the two of us walked around the expansive floor of the Auto Show, I couldn’t believe that this young boy – who now is taller than me – was actually old enough to drive every single vehicle parked inside McCormick Place (expect for, I’m pretty sure, the military truck that was big enough to haul a 747).

When the kid’s were little, we’d usually go to the Show during the week – when the crowds were a little more kid-friendly. It was a perfect way to spend a weekday late afternoon. But in those golden days, the kids were more interested in give-aways, or any exhibit that they could interact with. They liked registering for drawings. Even when they had no idea what they were registering for. They enjoyed the food. They liked watching members of the military oversee contests in their exhibit. They’d talk to State Troopers – especially if they were handing out some kind of kid-appealing goodie.

In truth, back then, the cars were just the shiny, glitzy backdrop for all the other good stuff.

But from the eyes of a newly minted 16-year-old, a young kid fresh off the assembly line of childhood – the Auto Show represents Lewis and Clark-like possibilities. Freedom. An untethered world. And, of course – from their perspective – price and cost are not issues.

And that was the case when my son and I hung out for a few hours the other day. Only now, he was the one taking the lead as we went from one exhibit to the other. He was the one sitting in the driver’s seat. He was the one talking about legroom, colors, trim and fuel efficiency.

And he was the one who thought somehow that dear old Dad was going to stage an Oprah moment in the middle of the Jeep exhibit with the surprising announcement, “And YOU get a new car!”

That didn’t happen.

But he is enjoying feeling old.

And how am I feeling? Like an old clunker.

Check out our appearance on the official Chicago Auto Show Daily Webisode! We show up in the last two minutes of the segment!

  • http://www.alwaysjacked.com Alan Kercinik

    I can only imagine this. My oldest is three. Although he is independent enough that I keep waiting for him to ask me for the keys to the car.

    On the plus side, you could buy him a hat and black coat and have him be your driver.

    • Jim Higley

      Alan – watch out! That three-year-old of yours will be shaving before you know it! Trust me! Thanks for reading. Jim