Driving along you'd click it down with the upper third or quarter or eighth of your left foot, and bang: job done, no hands man, it was low beam and keep 'em coming-cars that is.
You know what I'm talking about? How old are you?
Let's see, you'd have to be what, 40, or 35 maybe, if your first car was used, to know what I'm talking about. Because if you count 18 as being first car owning age-and you're 35-now, you were18, let me figure this, a 35 (sorry, I add out loud), year old was 18 in, what, 1992-so yeah, I'm right, if you're in your 30s now, you'd have to have had an older car as your first car to know what I'm talking about; how beautifully the toe clicker high/low beam switch worked.
Remember the sound it made? It was a solid, All-American, "I poured eleven concrete piers today, got done at ten-thirty, pouring the last one tomorrow," guy type sound. Stop reading for a second and if you know the sound I speak of, and listen for it. Solid.
The definitive "kahnahca" sound the clicker made was enhanced by it's being constructed so perfectly that when you pressed down on it your foot would ground off the strength of it's rugged design, sending a not so subtle volt of juice up through your leg to your hip bone creating a muscle memory that, for me hasn't dimmed a titch in more than twenty years. (Partially explains so many baby-boomer hip replacements)
Interesting that the angle your foot rested on the clicker made it so the pressure you applied to operate the switch did not move it in a straight down trajectory, which led one to assume the clicker might wear fast, or malfunction regularly. But it rarely did.
Over time as the clicker clicked, your ears and bones would pick up more rattles; the once smooth down-up motion slowly evolved into a rickety down up. A simple drop of 3-in-1 Oil stymied most hitches in the clickers step for a good long while.
No oil needed when road dirt and salt would jam the clicker, most usually in the down position. Angling your left foot so the soul of your shoe was to the right and middle of the body of the clicker, then moving your foot only a tad, and gently to the left for two solid taps, would release the clicker back to it's up position. For severe jams, repeating the left foot tap would be necessary. Now and then, without warning, the clicker would release itself from the down position with a long-slung spring-sprung "bouwnng," promptly scaring the beejeebers out of you.
I miss playing the clicker in syncopation to "Jingle Bells" while I drove over the river and through the woods to grandmas. I remember toe clicking the second banjo part from "Dueling Banjos" so beautifully, the mice residing in my heater popped their little heads out of holes in my dash, and, with their mouths full of straw, hooted me a bravo.
I would trade global-positioning rigs, DVD players, individual compartmental heating options, cameras that assist you backing up, heated seats, 20-inch wheels, in-car computer gauges that give you a running tally of transmission temp, and any of the other fantastical bull-flop charge us a 10-pound bag load for more stuff we don't need, for the old toe-clicker high/low beam switch in a heart beat.
The toe-clicker high/low beam switch was a more than efficient and fun-to-work characteristic that now, along with being able to change your oil, plugs and points, represents life lived in a less complicated generation.
Mr. Ford, Mr. Chevy-please bring back the toe-clicker hi/low beam switch! My blinker/hazard/front wiper-washer/rear wiper-washer/high/low beam switch lever is too busy with knobs for a simple-minded guy like me. I'm not kidding.
I long for the vanished toe-clicker high/low beam switch.
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO or visit his website at www.thelogger.com